Our very ancient ancestors were born in the sea and we are drawn back by the hypnotic rhythm of the waves. Like lemmings we make our way to the ocean each summer, undeterred by obstacles, adversities or toll booths.
Inching southward on the Garden State Packedway, with family and engine overheating, we begin to trade the cares and fears of our landlocked lives for the cares and fears of oceanside living.
After three hours of inching and a hundred Are-we-almost-theres?, we arrive at Jellyfish Beach where we have reserved a place at Bertha’s Bungalow rentals and sales. (“She sells cheap shells by the seashore”)
Your cozy cottage, according to Bertha, is within easy walking distance of the beach, but Bertha has run in three Boston Marathons and is a retired Marine drill sergeant.
Bertha also claimed your cottage sleeps eight, but you forgot to ask if that was simultaneously. Now she demonstrates how the kitchen table converts to a double bed and the living room couch opens up almost completely. Two can sleep there if one sits up.
There is a nice view of the cottage from the detached guest bathroom, The promised third bathroom is even more detached. Bertha has an arrangement with a local Texaco Station. Well, what do you want for $2,000 a week, the Beverly Hilton?
Jellyfish Beach beckons. There is a genuine feeling of homecoming as you approach the entrance. The ocean, after all, is our Mother. She belongs to all of us. The beach is another matter. It belongs to the taxpayers of Jellyfish Townsip and they charge five bucks a head per day.
You spread your beach blanket and collapse beneath your umbrella until a strong gust sends it pinwheeling towards the boardwalk. Never mind, you will soon be romping in the waves and body surfing. A lifeguard looks at you oddly when you ask ” what time does the ocean calm down?”
Finally, you join your frolicking family and bravely dive into a hugh white-capped roller which does a 180 and pulls you out towards what could be shark country. Was that a fin poking out of the foam?
You’ve seen “Jaws” a dozen times and you know exactly what to do, but the famly votes you down. They will not drive a mile or two inland and find a motel. They’re having too much fun.
As the sun sinks and the shadows lengthen across the sand, your happy group returns to Bertha’s for quick showers (If the Texaco Station is still open) and seaside games, like peeling off each other’s skin. Or you might return to the boardwalk in the evening and spend a week’s wages trying to win a stuffed monkey.
Tomorrow you can go out on a crowded chartered fishing boat and possibly win the pool for the seasickest person on board. Or you could sit on the beach again and watch for oil slicks and red tides. There are so many possibilities!