My birthday wish this year included visiting Sandy Hook, a barrier spit and Jersey Shore National Park that my family frequented in our younger years. I remembered the long, flat, pale landscape sandwiched between the Lower New York Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. Smell of salt and pines and sand. Charming tide pools and holly trees.
But I’d forgotten the abundance of prickly pear cactus. The visage of old armaments.
Remembered horseshoe crabs. Forgot fiddler crabs.
Remembered how the ocean pushes. Forgot how it pulls. Remembered seeming stability of sea-earth beneath a swimmer’s toes which can just . . . disappear.
Then, driving past blond, brick buildings, most now dilapidated beyond use, I remembered the smell of thick, shiny floor varnish, the sound of a wide, wooden door squeaking shut for the evening, warm light in a kitchen, and camp counselor taking time to be silly with just-me. I remembered the fierce bloom of affection for that person, those moments among preteen GirlScouts I met once then never again. The swoop of a windsurfing board catching wind to take my ten or eleven-year old body, long-limbed, nervous yet ecstatic, tacking across the water beneath a sky that stretched, pure blue, over everything.
There was the special treat of the holiday weekend: a Sandy Hook I’d misplaced, regained.