I remember coming into town around 11 PM on a Sunday night three months ago. I was tired. I had driven eight hours up from school in North Carolina. It was dark, and the roads were quiet, with the exception of my car radio, the volume kept high purposely to keep me awake.
I remember being excited—excited to see my family and friends and excited to see what this summer had in store for me. But most of all I was excited to be home for good for a few months.
But this excitement was blinded by my struggle to keep my eyes open and pay attention to the road. Around me was deserted. The only lights I saw were mine, my headlights shining on the road in front of me. Until I came to the bridge.
And I remember coming over the bridge and looking out across the island, it’s landscape stretched out before me in a see of tiny white lights shimmering from houses and stores situated along the shorelines. I remember seeing the glow from the Ferris Wheel standing out against the dark night sky, it’s displays of swirling, flashing bright neon lights illuminating the coastline from the other end of the island. I remember seeing rippled reflections cast out by the moonlight onto the water of boats docked at the marina to my right. And I remember seeing Rio Grande Avenue before me, the strip lined with restaurants and stores and attractions, each one offering something different of their own unique quality and taste. And I remember thinking to myself…finally I’m home.
But I think what I remember the most about that long, tiring ride home was the feeling—that feeling I get whenever I see the Wildwood skyline—that feeling of warmth, comfort, closeness. That feeling I don’t experience anywhere else besides this island. That feeling of home. And no matter how many times I leave, whether for school or vacation or what not, I always have that itching anticipation to come back, like I can’t be away for too long before I feel like a part of me is missing.
That feeling consumed me today on my drive out of town at precisely 11 AM this Sunday morning. Except this time, nothing was glowing. It was bright and sunny, and people were out and about riding bikes and walking and shopping. And they were smiling. And as I watched them smile and have a good time, I couldn’t help but feel worse because I had to leave town to go back to school. I had to leave Wildwood. I had to leave home.
I decided to take the long way out of town and leave the island via Rio Grande Ave. I figured this way I could have one final look at the Ferris Wheel, the boardwalk, the stores, the restaurants—including Beach Creek, where I spent most nights working.
Feeling somewhat upset, I then came to the bridge. It’s funny how three months ago I was excited to cross it to go into town, but now dread to cross it to leave. With one final look around me, I was over the bridge and slowly losing that feeling of home. But then the itching anticipation came, and my mind raced, trying to figure out when it was the next time I’d be back. And that’s when I remembered—I’d be home next weekend.
With the simple thought of returning in a few days, my mood was looking up. I wasn’t leaving for good. I’d be back before I knew it. So I turned my radio up and sang at the top of my lungs all the way to the parkway.