Blame it on the Coppertone

My mother sporting her Jackie O look and me (what the heck was up with that haircut?)

My mother sporting her Jackie O look and me (what the heck was up with that haircut?) On the beach in North Wildwood circa 1964. 17th Street

Today is officially the first day of summer. It’s certainly not the prettiest day – one of those rainy and damp summer days – but it’s SUMMER!  You know summer can be remembered all year. It’s the little things that summer represents, lazy days sleeping on a hammock in the back yard, ice tea, flowers in the garden, bike rides on the boardwalk, fishing, kayaking, BBQs with friends and family – just being outside!

The much-quoted Thomas Wolfe said; “you can’t go home again.” Certainly that may be so, but perhaps that doesn’t hold true for vacation homes. At least it didn’t for me, thanks to Coppertone and my great grandmother’s old Victorian home on Central Avenue in North Wildwood.

My trip down memory lane this summer—or more specifically down Central Avenue consisted of my mom, my grandmother (age 100), brother Joe, sister in law Susan, nieces Jenn, Steph and Lizzie, 2 dogs (Jack and Honey) but we were missing two important players in this memory, my father who passed on a few years back and my Aunt Maryanne who was out of the country at the time. This particular Saturday was rainy and gloomy, but for my brother and I our memories where deep rooted, of our childhood in the summer of 1964.

The house was still there, and not much had changed. Some renovations were a result of the unreliable memory of a child. (I was 4 or 5 the last time I saw the house). The steps leading up to the front porch and door seems much larger to me as a child, taller, higher, and bigger. Now they just look normal. Other changes came from the transformation that occurs in any house of a certain age. Additions, landscaping, redecoration, new furniture—they all change the way a house looks and feels but the basic were all right in front of us.

As we drove around the block a second time, we decided to get out and walk to the beach as we had done some 47 years earlier – a family, young and whole again? Down 17th Street heading east to the beach in the rain. Over the boards and onto the beach which seemed much larger than I remembered but it was the smell that brought us all back – it was the true steady smell that jolted our memories and it still smelled the same. I love the scent of wind across water mixed with Coppertone. Deep inhale and that is when it all came back in a vivid memory for my brother and I. Laughing, running, playing, watching the seagulls chase the fishing vessels on the water, the sun shining brilliantly while reflecting off the mighty Atlantic Ocean. We stood there for seconds all lost in the memory of 1964 while the summer wind of  sand, sea and Coppertone brought us back, how could we ever forget the smell of summer? I will confess, sometimes deep in the winter, I’ll unscrew the cap off of my bottle of Coppertone and just breathe in to the cavernous center of my lungs. Ah, for a short fleeting moment summer returns – it’s the Coppertone that got me here.

Walking back to the house on 17th Street, we remembered houses with huge lawns, massive Maple trees, the deep, comfortable shade that they provided —they are all still there as is the Coppertone in my beach bag begging me to take a day off and be a tourist on vacation. Instead of bidding adieu to the summer so soon, I’ll let it linger and maybe you’ll find a family sitting in a circle on a warm Indian summer day reliving the past and for just one more time it’s 1964 again and we are young.

The front steps that I thought were huge with cousins, my Aunt Maryanne and my great grandmother

The front steps that I thought were huge with cousins, my Aunt Maryanne and my great grandmother

What’s your best memory? Leave a comment here or e-mail me and send some photos too!


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