There is a unique sensation as you drive over the causeway into Ship Bottom on Long Beach Island. It is the sensation of stress and worries falling off your shoulders. It is the rich feeling of the memories of summer coming to life.
Ten years before I was born, my grandparents visited Long Beach Island and decided to buy a house. They saw something in the place. It would be our family’s vacation home.
For 33 years, the small house on 26th Street in Spray Beach has been the place my family has gathered in the summer. As we crowd in (sometimes more than a dozen at a time) we know that it so much more than a house, and Long Beach Island is so much more than a place to be. It is a state of mind.
The images that I see of LBI battered by Sandy are heartbreaking. We don’t know if our little house is OK. We won’t know for days. I worry about the house, but I worry more about what will be different if we return for another summer at the shore.
We inquire about our favorite places to go. Fantasy Island. Bay Village. The Dockside Diner. The Beach Haven Fishery. The lighthouse. Mr. T’s. These are places etched into our souls, imprinted permanently from the weight of summer memories. What will it be like if they are gone?
Perhaps it’s best to focus more on the images in our minds. Sitting with my grandfather on the front porch as the breeze wafts over our toes. Marathon Strat-O-Matic games with my cousin. The memory of the hard callouses that formed after a months of walking on the stones. The sight of my son looking out on the ocean for the first time.
Will these images be overwhelmed by a feeling of loss? I believe not.
My positive memories of LBI are strong. Thus, LBI is strong. I, for one, won’t let Sandy take away our summers.