One summer in the 1950s, when I was a teenager, our family rented a house for a couple of weeks on the beach at the south end of Ocean City, New Jersey. Ah, the gray-white, warm, silky sands strewn with bright beach umbrellas and sprayed with big colorful towels topped with golden-tan sunbathers, the gray-green surf rising and falling, heads bobbing in the rollers, and frothy waves running up onto the sand submerging splashing, squealing kids: in the misty salt air all this sparkled against the constant soundtrack of the breakers. There were my father, and aunt and uncle, who was my father’s brother, and my younger brother. My parents had been divorced a few years before. We were, all the family, spring chickens then. Every night while dinner was cooking, we’d relax on the upper deck imbibing the sea breezes. My uncle would begin the event by announcing, “The Ocean Bar and Seaview Grill is now open.”
My uncle loved to surf the waves on a vinyl raft, or air mattress, as some call them, what most everybody used then. It was one summer during that era when the surf was packed with people elbow to elbow, that I was body surfing and a big wave came. I rode right in on some guy’s back. And another summer around that time, my brother, wearing shorts, of course, took off running down the boardwalk, despite the adults’ warnings. He fell and got so many splinters that his shins looked like baguettes stuffed with rosemary leaves. The hour-long procedure involving burnt sewing needles and tweezers proved a painful reminder to him – just like the time he stuck his finger through the chicken wire – never to engage in that activity again.
My uncle was diagnosed with colon cancer in August 1973. He was gone before Christmas. He was 61.
This collection of writings, images and recipes I offer you here as a respite, if you like, from my caregiver’s journal entries. Maybe you’ll find something good to eat and a humorous story to read while it’s cooking.