The last time my entire family went to the beach was in 2008. We rented a beachfront property in the town of Brant Beach. My room had floor to ceiling windows facing the ocean, every evening granting me a full light show as the sun set over the glittering waves. This vacation was a bit rough for my family because my grandma was becoming too frail for the trip, and we disputed whether to take her home. I was consumed by summer homework that took me away from the rainy day movies and seaside walks where my parents tried to pull together some sort of peace. I never went to the beach by myself during those arguments; the ocean was no fun when you were alone. You couldn’t splash anyone, couldn’t bury someone in the sand while they slept, couldn’t race the waves as they spread along the ground.
I awoke on the morning before our departure to my mom thumping on my door and announcing that I had twenty minutes to get ready and head for the car. Grumpy but on time, I piled in with all of my relatives, squished into the backseat of our minivan as my mom booked it down the still-empty main road on the island. We drew up to what appeared to be a small mountain, which, upon closer inspection, turned out to be two mini-golf courses built into a hill. The family made to split into groups, but my mom firmly stuck us all together at one hole, and I understood why she had gotten us moving so early: we took forever. We played both courses in one go, and my grandma trounced everyone with a record number of hole-in-ones, though I was the only player to win a free soda.
Famished, we descended on Captain Jack’s Diner and ordered half of the menu in one go. The food was amazing, the newspapers were chock full of comics, and no one cared that we were talking and laughing loud enough to be heard through the entire restaurant. The family was getting along. No one wanted to change that.
At last, bellies round, the restaurant vacated, we made our way to the beach. Of course, it was the hottest part of the day, but my dad volunteered with my aunts to grab umbrellas from the house while I raced my brother into the surf. We spent the rest of the day in and out of the water, but always near it. High tide came and went, and came again. The sun set, the lifeguards left, slowly the beach emptied until we were left alone with the ocean at night.
The sky sparkled with millions of stars and the water rippled darkly, the crash of waves softer than during the day. We built a bonfire and sat quietly around the flames, roasting marshmallows. There was a small disagreement over whether burnt or golden-brown ones had a better flavor, but even that fight had no true animosity behind it. Idly, I wished aloud that we could stay at LBI for another week to make up for the one we had just experienced, and everyone around me agreed. My mom got a strange look on her face and excused herself to make a phone call. I could see her standing on the porch of our beach house, talking on her cell phone. She paced back and forth, gesturing as she spoke. A few minutes later, she returned, grinning.
She had secured our house for another week.