My mom called me on Monday from the beach back in Wildwood. I knew it was Labor Day, so I knew that meant my whole extended family went down together and sat for the day, and long into the night, on the beach.
She said the beach was especially nice that day. It wasn’t hot to the point where you have to put your chair in the water and move it back every time the tide rolls in just so you’re cooler. The sand wasn’t too hot. There was a nice breeze blowing over the ocean and hitting her face. And perhaps her favorite part of the beach that day was the calmness of the crowds.
“It’s very relaxing,” she said. “It’s not overcrowded. People aren’t climbing over you to get to the ocean or moving your towels so they can find places to sit. We’re really all just enjoying.”
I asked her who was down there, hoping she’d lie and tell me only a few family members—I hate missing family get-togethers. But she didn’t of course, and replied to my question with, “Everyone. And everyone says hi. We all miss you and wish you were here.”
Ah yes, there it was. It’s like you’re fine with not being there because you can’t really visualize the scene and who’s in it, so you don’t really know what you’re missing, but then she hits you with that. “We wish you were here.” Then I get the scene.
Truth was, I’d much rather be back in Wildwood, back in my hometown on this sunny day, spending Labor Day with my family on the beach, than being stuck inside and writing a 20-page paper for my digital writing class. Truth was, I loved and missed spending prior Labor Days on the beach. It was like a family tradition to sit there and relax and do nothing all day, after the busyness of the summer. It’s kind of like our celebration of summer ending, and a new year starting, even though it’s only fall.
I remember one year in particular. I was in seventh grade—you know, that awkward age where you’re too cool to be around your parents or to even be seen with them, let alone your whole family. Except I was never like that, so it wasn’t an issue for me. While all my friends hung out together at one of their houses, I was picking up my cousins from the hotel they were staying at for the weekend while they visited and walking to the beach.
I don’t really remember the short walk from the hotel to the beach. I don’t remember the weather conditions, or what bathing suit I had on—another important topic for a seventh grader—clothes. And I don’t remember why we sat in the sand until well after sundown, but we did.
I do remember the drippy castles my little brothers made out of the wet sand down by the water. I remember the boat my dad dug out of the sand for an hour so my baby cousins had a place to sit and play. I remember the long stroll my older cousin and I took along the shoreline, walking all the way down to the other side of the island.
I remember my uncle pulling out the mustard bottle he packed from home for the six bags of soft pretzels he bought from the hot dog stand up by the street. And I remember they were devoured in less than five minutes by the 20 plus crowd we had gathered, with our beach chairs sprawled out in a rather messy circle. I remember the pizza we ordered from a local pizza place and got delivered to the beach at dusk.
But what I remember most of all is sitting around in our sprawled out beach chairs, eating our pepperoni pizzas and enjoying the night…together.
And that’s what it’s really all about—enjoying, laughing, relaxing, spending time with family. With this idea in mind, I decided to make the best out of the rest of my day and watched movies with my roommates. And we laughed and relaxed and enjoyed over Chinese food and wine. It was no pizza, but it was close. So I hope everyone had an enjoyable, relaxing Labor Day, whatever it is you did.