There are very few places in New Jersey that I truly consider to be "home", these days. Sure, there is the house I grew up in where my father lives with my step-mother but that hasn't been my "home" for nearly a decade as I and the dynamic of the household have changed. While I love my father and cherish the good memories I have there as well as the wild life preserve surrounding the house, it's not where I go when I think of "Homecoming." Then there is my mother's house, where she lives with my sister, my niece and my step-father. This is closer to feeling like 'home' for our visits as we often spend the nights here but it's really more of a 'base of operations' if you will.
"Home" is a tricky concept for someone like myself, who's had houses hold darkness and skeletons best tucked neatly in to the closet, lest anyone see them. I consider the entirety of New Jersey to be my home as well as the house where Joe and I are carving out our life together here in South Carolina; though it took me a little while to warm to the idea that home could be somewhere other than where I grew up.
And so it is, that when I'm in New Jersey and I say, 'I'm going home' I mean to say that I'm going to the ocean. And not just any point on the ocean, but to my beloved Asbury Park, the love for and comfort in which I find, I've written about here, here, and here.
I'll admit, I was so very, very nervous about visiting since Hurricane Sandy knocked the shit out of my beloved state back in the Autumn. The photos I saw of the devastation along the coast line broke my heart and I'm sure that if I had gone elsewhere I may have witnessed more of the damage first hand. Hell, a friend told me if I had driven just a few minutes up the road to Long Branch I'd have been blown away by the changes there. But I didn't, I went where my heart led me and as I walked up to the Boardwalk, breath held, I was beyond pleasantly surprised.
It's still shabby and beautiful. The sand is mostly where it belongs. I won't lie and pretend there weren't happy tears shed as my toes hit the sand, both from the relief of a place that holds so much magic to me being OK and from simply being there. Snuffling aside, we staked our umbrella in the hot sand, slathered ourselves with lotion and waited the bare minimum time suggested before plunging ourselves in to the frigid waters of the Atlantic.
Glorious cold ocean, how I've missed you! There's something awkward and sort of gross about getting in to water that's bathtub temperature on a hot summer day. Not only is it not refreshing, but I'm always highly suspicious that someone has peed nearby. When someone pees near you in Northern waters, you know it. ;-) Some people are baffled by my love of an icy ocean on a hot day, but once you're in you adjust quickly and it feels amazing. Warm sun on exposed skin, cool water keeping you from feeling like you're frying.
That part can also be a bad thing sometimes, as you don't know you've been sunburnt until it's too late!
We walked the sandy shores under the watchful gaze of old, old buildings; collecting shells and stones. I found my first ever hagstone, a small thing to some, but a wonderful find to me! Storm clouds rolled in as we sat and watched the gulls so we retreated to shelter for a cold pint and some food, followed by a visit to Silverball for some pinball wizardry.
We tilted and flipped until we figured we should probably be going soon. Neither of us really wanted to, but with plans to head back to the South in the morning and my family Luna-sitting for us, we knew we should. The storm had subsided and we stepped on to the boardwalk and saw this:
Yet another smile, this time a huge one. The first full rainbow I've ever seen, as well as the first rainbow I've ever seen at the shore. It was beautiful and we stood and gazed at it for a long while; soaking in the colors, sights and sounds of the moment.
Here are a few more photos of the best (in my opinion anyway) day of our trip: