I grew up on an island.
Now don’t go thinking about palm trees swaying in the wind and drinks with umbrella straws not that kind of island.
I grew up on a small island off the coast of New Jersey. Doesn’t sound that glamorous now does it?
And it wasn’t glamorous or even exciting when I was young. Mostly it was boring. Sure we had the beach and the boardwalk and neighbors in the summer but 9 months out of the year it was pretty desolate.
Come labor day weekend the summer people (shoobies) would pack up and head home. My friends and I used to joke that after labor day the sidewalks rolled up and tumble weeds would blow down the boardwalk. We had friendships and romances that lasted a season. And come Memorial Day weekend my local friends and I would search the boardwalk in hopes of rekindling romances.
When I was young I hated where I lived. I wish I lived in Pennsylvania where all the summer kids lived. I wished I lived near them so we could be friends year round, so that I could hold on to my summer crush and so the winters wouldn’t be so damn boring.
Sometimes I resented my parents decision to raise me at the shore and all I wanted to do all my life was get off that island. And I did, and I am happy about it. I love life on the mainland but as I’ve gotten older I’ve started to realize how special living on an island was and how much Jackson’s childhood will differ from my own.
He will go to school with a class of hundreds rather than a school that’s entire enrollment topped off at 200 back in the early 90’s. My K-8 school closed for good last year.
He will grow up in a neighborhood that is filled with families and friends.
He will live surrounded by trees, and nature and wildlife. There will be no swimming in the ocean after school and walks on the beach in winter. He won’t know what it’s like to feel so at home at the ocean. To seek solace in the crash and fall of the waves. He won’t sleep with sand in his bed or wake up to hear seagulls.
His childhood will be different and in some ways it will be better. Trips to the beach will be a treat rather than something he takes for granted.
And that’s OK but I’m working hard to make sure that he gets to enjoy all the things that I loved about my hometown and I hope that he has the same love for it.