My mother was born August 15 and as a child we’d celebrate the day by going to the ocean. We lived on the North Shore of Long Island with the Long Island Sound a quick drive from our home. That was our everyday beach for swimming lessons and sunset walks along the shore. The Atlantic Ocean was reserved for special occasions with wild waves and riptides threatening to pull you under. Looking back, I shutter just thinking about how dangerous my childhood was. We’d all pile into a car like clowns at the circus. The more the merrier. I’m not sure when seat belts were invented but they were definitely not part of my childhood. I had the window seat only once and that time I accidentally opened the door while we sped along. My brother held my feet as the rest of me exited the car. He managed to pull me back in and I’m sure my mother had a few firm words to say. After that, I was doomed to the middle seat for a number of years.
Once we arrived at the beach and our territory established with umbrellas, cooler and towels, we were set free to go where we pleased. I was a horrible swimmer but that didn’t stop me from heading into the surf. More than once, I was pulled from turbulent waters gasping for air by a cousin or a complete stranger. Defying death was all part of the magic of the day. At some point, an Entenmanns sheet cake would appear with black and white icing and candles. For those not from Long Island, Entenmanns cake was a local bakery that expanded into a factory. The cakes were made of Crisco, flour and sugar. Not a gourmet delight by any stretch of the imagination. We’d sing as the melted icing would catch sand particles adding an extra crunch. Dare I tell you that my mother’s birthday was the highlight of summer fun.
This past week my mother would have turned 80. My sister Lisa and I took off for Robert Moses State Park yesterday to sit by the edge of the ocean. It was chilly so we didn’t tempt fate by jumping into the surf. Instead, we talked and remembered with laughter what once was. Salt and sand lightly coated the cherries I had brought and all seemed right with the world.