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Summers at Surfside

January 23, 2010

I'm thinking this picture may be older than I am. But, it's pretty much how I remember it!

I grew up with salt water in my blood. I guess my love of all things “Water” was destined to be. When I was a kid, I spent most of my summers at the beach, good ol’ Surfside.
Back in the old days, most of the roads were dirt roads. The houses were proper beach houses. Cabins really. They were all built on stilts, painted a variety of fun colors, just pretty simple. My father and a lot of his cousins built houses within about two blocks of each other. A good number of the other houses in our little area were owned by people from our very small hometown. The neighbors that we weren’t from our town or related to us were “beach friends.” They were as much a part of the beach to me as the ocean. So, our vacations were filled with family and friends.
We spent our days on the beach. I can remember waking up and tormenting my Dad to take me swimming. I could not wait for him to finish his second cup of coffee. We’d go to the beach and swim until lunch. So much fun. The beach was full of family friends. We’d spend the morning playing and visiting. Then, after lunch, and after my parents soap operas, we’d go back to the beach for the rest of the day.
One of my craziest memories if of my parents sitting on the front porch of our unairconditioned beach house with their rocking chairs turned toward the house watching their “stories” through the windows.
We’d take walks to the pier, which was about a mile and a half from our house. If we walked in the evening, we’d go the “rides” as we called them. There was a little pavilion right on the beach. They had a Ferris Wheel with a beautiful view of the ocean from the top. They had a Merry Go Round, a Scrambler, Tilt a Whirl, and a lot of kiddie rides. It was so much fun, and really well worth the walk. They also had an arcade, where I became very skilled at Ms Pacman. I can still really kick some tail on Ms. Pacman, not that anyone ever challenges me. I’m just very confident in my skills. I also play a mean air hockey and am really good at Skee Ball. (You see, my summers weren’t without educational opportunities)
I remember once having some of my cousins from our home town at the beach. They had their oldest, teenage son and his girlfriend who was also vacationing at the beach that week, take my cousin and I(probably 9 or 10 years old) to the “rides.” In theory, this must have sounded like a good idea to someone. They had a little mini ferris wheel with these little cages around your seat. He bought a string of tickets for us, put us on the ride and gave the guy running the ride the whole wad of tickets and told him not to let us off until he came back to get us. Not sure what he and his girlfriend did with the free time, but we rode and rode and rode the ferris wheel. Giggling and fussing the whole time.
I don’t know if we told on them or not.
My days swimming were some of the most relaxing I’ve ever had. You never knew which ocean you were going to get. Some days it was really rough, and riptide and undertow were discussed at length. On these days, we dug for periwinkles and sand fiddlers. Made sand castles, and played in the tide pools.
Other days, the ocean had perfect waves to ride. Sometimes we used these big canvas floats, they were red or navy blue and had ropes laced around them through big grommets. At the end of the day, my stomach was usually raw from the sand and canvas. But, that didn’t stop me from doing it again the next day. Some days, the ocean was as calm as a lake. We’d go out past the little breakers and visit. Whoever was on the beach would go out and the adults would talk and let us stand on their shoulders and dive off. We’d do flips and float on our backs. My most vivid memories of my Dad are of him floating, toes up in the water. My Dad would find conch shells on the bottom with his feet. Back then, before it became more developed, we found pretty shells and sharks teeth so easily.
After a long day on the beach, we’d walk up to the house, tan and tired. Take our showers outside, wrap up in a towel and take off up the stairs and into the house. My Dad would cook steaks over a homemade grill, a wash tub with charcoal and a grate over the top. Our house was on stilts, so he’d cook under the house. When it was time for my mom to put the rolls in the oven, he’d bang on the floor/ceiling with a broom stick and she’d know it was time. If he needed a beer, he’d bang a certain number of times and she’d send me down with one.
I can remember playing hide and seek and other games with all the kids in our neighborhood. We’d hide in each others outdoor showers and crepe myrtle trees. Times were good.
My Dad’s cousins would come over a lot of afternoons and play horse shoes under the house.
The men would all go “shrimping” pretty often during the summer. I really liked it when they’d let me tag along. We’d take a boat out to their favorite place to drag for shrimp. Two of the guys would pull either end of the net, and one person would hold this knot thing in the back to keep it front tangling. They’d walk a good distance and I’d bring the boat along behind them. They’d dump the contents of the net on the bank and we’d pick up shrimp and put them in buckets. We’d throw back a lot of the “trash fish” , my Dad would grab a squid or two and pat them, they’d squirt ink all over the place as he released them. As soon as the men started another pull with the net, I’d get the boat behind them and follow them again. The first time I did it, shortly after watching Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, no one warned me that about a million birds would come for dinner and eat whatever got left on the bank. Well, now that’s a disturbing feeling. I laid down flat in that mud.
These were fun days, and we’d leave with buckets of shrimp. We’d all get together at our cousins, Bobby and Irene’s house and cook the freshest seafood you could imagine.
I often wish I could turn back time and my kids could have these experiences with these really cool people.
This is probably a really rambling post, sorry. My blog took a wrong turn and got stuck on Memory Lane for a little while! 😛

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