Anticipating all sorts of side effects, I felt safer staying within the country. Along with this, the economy was failing fast and we decided to spend our money on our home turf. But most importantly, our daughter, an ex-pat living in Denmark with her husband and kids, was particularly homesick for the U.S. and wanted to spend some time with us and her gang at the place we had enjoyed so many summers long past: the Jersey shore. And when she speaks, we listen.
It had been years since we had spent time in Jersey, so we went on-line and looked up some of our old haunts. In the vast spread of New Jersey’s coast, we had always favored Long Beach Island, so that was the one we zeroed in on.
“Let’s be practical,” said husband Gene. “With grandsons, ages 6, 4 and 1, we should avoid renting a showplace on the beach and try to get a comfortable, modestly-priced cottage within walking distance of the beach.”
That resolved, we decided on the first two weeks of July. Our daughter and her husband purchased the five tickets for themselves and the boys, and we began searching in earnest for the right place. View More images >>
Strike One: We had not taken into account that the Fourth of July weekend was during our designated time period, severely limiting our travel options. No bargains here.
Strike Two: Dealing on-line was not as easy as everyone said it would be. The houses we liked that showed as “available” turned out to be “unavailable.” No choices here.
Strike Three: The prices were out of sight, much more than we spent for a charming cottage with pool in our Tuscan vineyard. Give me a break!
Well, there were three strikes against us, but we weren’t out yet. We wanted to honor our commitment to our daughter, so we swallowed hard and proceeded. Our Philadelphia son volunteered to drive two hours to the shore to meet with a realtor to look at some rental properties.
That evening, he excitedly reported that he saw the perfect place, of the perfect size, in the perfect location. It was so perfect that he decided that he and his 5-year-old son would join us for their vacation. He signed on the dotted line. Everything was perfect except the price.
This was not a cozy little cottage three blocks from the beach. This was an up-to-date beachfront home. With no other options, we swallowed hard again and choked out, “Perfect!” Not wanting to slight our other son and family, we called them in Texas and told them of our plans. Within an hour, we got a return call from two of our granddaughters saying that they would love to come, too. So now we were to be 11 people in a four-bedroom 1-1/2 bathroom house.
“Don’t worry,” I told my husband. “We’ll make the best of it and have a fun time.”
And we did, though Gene did spend an unusual amount of time in our bedroom with the door closed and his head under a pillow. The rest of us learned to ignore him during those times, and eventually, he came around.
It turned out that the house was perfect: bright, and roomy and right on the beach. Our pre-school grandsons were able to walk back and forth to the beach by themselves. The house was air-conditioned, something we really needed during the worst hot spell the Jersey shore had ever experienced. Another bonus was the wonderful, large, covered front porch with a table large enough for the 11 of us to squeeze around for all of our meals. Since at least one of the four little boys spilled something at every meal, clean-up was a breeze—the kids took turns hosing down the deck.
We all learned to adjust to the freezing temperatures of the Atlantic Ocean with its giant waves and undertow; we learned to fight off the greenhead flies when they attacked in the day and to outrun the mosquitoes when they attacked in the night; we learned to limit our intake of ice cream to two servings each day - a popsicle from the daily ice cream truck and a nightly double-decker from the store two blocks away.
We feasted on fresh Atlantic striped bass and steamed clams; we gorged ourselves with fresh Jersey produce-corn, melon, peaches, tomatoes, peppers.
We bonded by sharing the cooking and clean-up detail; we bonded by sharing 1.5 bathrooms with 11 people; we bonded by taking the kid who was crying the loudest for a third ice cream.
We watched our one-year-old grandson take his first steps; we watched our 4-year-old grandson jump from the top of the lifeguard stand and land on his head; we watched our 5-year-old grandson learn to dive under the waves, and our 7-year-old grandson learn to body surf.
We glowed when we watched our 12-year-old granddaughter tenderly feed her 1-year-old cousin and play “teacher” with the other little ones. We winked at each other when we watched the eyes of the lifeguard hone in on our bikini clad 15-year-old granddaughter.
We had a great time and made an important decision: Next year, we’re going back to Italy!
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