Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Summer is upon us and the warmer weather has a way of enticing my memories of long gone summers. When I was younger I used to spend many summer days down in Belmar, New Jersey. It is a small town on the Jersey shore. It has long had a reputation as a summer haven for high school and college kids. I am sure it still enjoys that reputation. I would go to a small bungalow on 15th Avenue, which was owned by close friends of mine. We would spend hours on the front porch, which had a hammock and chairs. At night, we could see the passing cars and passersby. People walking their dogs, or young couples walking along and holding hands. Older people, too, would walk by, taking in the cool of the evening as they headed in the direction of the boardwalk.
There was an enormous nightclub several blocks away which catered to the young crowd. The place was always packed and from the porch we could hear the howls and the laughter as the crowd there moved into full swing. The name of the club was Bar Anticipation. It was and still is the place “to be” in Belmar on a hot summer’s night.
I was there in the winter a few years back. The town was deserted, since most of the houses were summer rentals and were closed up. The boardwalk was closed for the winter months. Main Street had a some places open, since there is a resident winter population in the area. But the streets near the beach were practically deserted. I stayed a few nights in the bungalow on 15th Avenue with Bill, friend of mine. His family owns the bungalow. We had a heater and some blankets, so the nights were fine. In the evenings, we sat on the porch with the TV on in the room behind us, the volume turned low. A bottle of wine was opened and we toasted each other and talked about old times, all the summers we enjoyed in that house, the memories flowing as easily and as readily as the wine.
The little bungalow is the kind of place that we know well at a particular time in our lives, and then we move on and leave it behind. Yet its simplicity and its comfort is something we look for again and again all during our lives. Many new places are silently compared to the elegant charm of a modest beach bungalow in Belmar. It is as if it was a place that good memories were born, and it would be something of a miracle to reduplicate that process in all the later places of our lives. But memories that glow are born from special times, special places. I am fortunate that I can go back and savor the times that were, in the very place those memories came from.
When I was last there, Bill and I sat on the porch late into the night. Bill wanted to go out, but I talked him into just hanging out there and chatting. He asked me several times if things were okay, if I was sure I did not want to go out. I told him no, that it was good to be there, to be at peace. I could hear the ocean, its waves rhythmic, even, marking time with each roll on the beach. Like days and years, as they come and then go. But that night, all seemed still, and good. Time rolling on, the taste of wine, a good friend, a return to what is beautiful and good in this life.