Classic. Ocean City, NJ is stuffed with summer childhood memories. One of my first vacation memories is staying in a dingy motel just off the boardwalk (vibrating bed and all! I thought it was the most fun thing ever.) and my parents letting us stay up very late to actually finish a game of Monopoly. It is a great memory, full of laughter and that special feeling of getting to stay up late as a little kid. Since then we have had big family reunions, vacations with friends as well as other trips with just our family (the accomodations gradually improving from that first memory…haha.).
When I met Chris in the early 2000s, his aunt and uncle had just purchased a house in Sea Isle, about halfway between OC and Cape May. It made sense for Chris and I to start staying and visiting with them on our shore trips, instead of heading into Ocean City. We would occasionally come back for family reunions or day trips, but our connection was now being built to Sea Isle (which is also fantastic, but not what this blog is about).
This year, my parents wanted to gather all of their children under one roof in Ocean City once again and reserved a house for us all to stay at. My kids and I stayed for over a week. As soon as we crossed the bridge into town and started driving the streets, the memories came flooding back. The house was just a block and a half from the beach and boardwalk – so the stage was set.
The day we arrived the weather was beautiful. We settled into the house and then headed straight for the beach. Crossing the boardwalk made me stop in my tracks….Jilly’s arcade, the Surf Mall, Kohr Brothers all right where I left them. The Surf Mall takes me back to Senior Week, which is a right of passage for High School graduates in the Philadelphia area. Graduate HS and head to the beach for the week to blow off steam with your now former classmates. During SW I hit up the Surf Mall, which is a collection of vendors and an oxygen bar, to purchase some washout hair dye, a fake nose ring and fake tramp stamp to give my mom a shock when I got home (I was raised in a conservative Catholic home, so this was shocking).
We crossed the boards to the beach. For the first time my 7-year-old was eager to play in the rough surf, and quickly became an expert boogie boarder. Watching her laugh, even when she got knocked down hard made me smile and think about how much I loved learning to ride the waves in when I was a kid. During a family reunion in the early ’90s I finely tuned my body surfing skills and would stay in the water for hours with my mom, aunts, uncles and cousins. And just like my daughter did, we would all emerge water-logged, pruney, happy and exhausted.
That night, after my husband left to go back to Baltimore to work for a few days, I took the kids to the boardwalk for their first time ever. I mean, is there anything cooler than that to a kid? The ocean and all the lights and arcade noises and rides and mini-golf and and…and! I walked them along to show them our options for the upcoming week. We laughed at the animated gorillas jamming out in their helicopter in front of Congo Falls mini-golf. My son jumped and ran to the other side of the boardwalk as a realistic robot alligator on tracks charged forward with its jaws open at the entrance to Pirates of the Golden Galleon mini-golf. We stopped for ice cream and talked about what we wanted to do during the week. We watched seagulls launch coordinated attacks on unsuspecting tourists to separate them from their crab fries.
The next day my mom brought home an excellent Remembering Malcolm candidate from church. School supplies for children La Montagne Jacmel, Haiti…sounded perfect (I had trouble identifying a good volunteer opportunity ahead of time). See separate post on this activity.
During the week we had so much fun at the house doing our puzzle (for my family this is essential beach downtime activity), chatting and being silly. Beach in the afternoon, boardwalk at night, repeat.
Chris joined us again Wednesday night, and by Friday morning my brother, my SIL and nephew arrived. On Friday it was colder and overcast, so we went to the boardwalk earlier on and did some rides, and by that night my other, youngest brother and other SIL were in town….whole family together!
The next day was surrey rides and beach again, fueled by a healthy cheeseball pizza lunch. Determined not to repeat the mistakes of our Cherry Springs trip, where we ran out of cheeseballs way to quickly, each family brought a barrel…..challenge accepted.
That night my brothers, SILS, Chris and I got to go on a date while my parents watched the kids! It was so much fun. My daughter was super upset and couldn’t understand why she couldn’t come. I remember feeling that way! During a family reunion my older cousins got to go with the adults to Atlantic City to see David Copperfield and I SO wanted to go with them. Yes, I was 11, but I was an old soul….bring me bring me briiiiinnnng mmmeeee!
We ate some great BBQ at Back Bay BBQ, a BYOB over the bridge. (Ocean City, NJ is a dry, family-friendly town. You can bring booze in, but in town there are no bars and no liquor stores) Followed up by walking the boards and the beach and beating one of the boardwalk escape rooms extremely easily. I’ve never done an escape room before, but I don’t think they are supposed to be that easy (we did the ‘hardest one’ and beat it with 10 minutes to spare of our half-hour time limit). I get it, though, good for a quick turn around on the boardwalk. It makes them more family friendly, also. Moral of the story, if you are looking for a very challenging escape room, go somewhere else.
The next morning my parents took everyone out to a family breakfast and then we hit the beach and arcade once more.
Finally, it came time to say goodbye to my sibs. As we were wrapping up the evening I got really sad. This tends to happen on vacations now, and the longer the vacation the worse it seems to be. I get sad to go back to our house and routine because it doesn’t include Malcolm. He should be here. Every time I start to think about this gaping hole in our everyday lives I can’t shake it and I have a breakdown. This vacation was no exception. This night it was compounded because we were celebrating my sweet nephew’s one-year birthday. I love him so much, but all I could think about is how Malcolm never got this day. I eventually scraped myself off the bed, with the support of my amazing and loving husband, to hug my sibs and nephew goodbye.
My family stayed one more day with my parents and aunt and took it at a relaxing pace. So many new memories to add to the old ones: