My friend asked me if I wanted to carpool home from college with her for the upcoming weekend. Having not been back to Wildwood in over a month, I quickly jumped at the idea.
Obviously, I couldn’t pass up the chance to be with my family and friends, if only for a few days, and to be on the island and to see it during the fall. It’s my favorite time of year, after all, for that’s when everything settles down and transitions from the busy summer months into the slower winter months. The streets get a little quieter, the weather a little cooler, the air a little crisper. The leaves change from greens to golden browns and burnt oranges before falling to the ground and leaving the trees bare, and the roar of the ocean waves crashing against the shore becomes more defiant, echoing down the streets blocks away from the beach. Everything seems to be calmer and relaxed now that the peak tourist season has winded down, and the small, tight-knit community finally comes back together.
For me, fall at home always brought about new beginnings, not just for the atmosphere surrounding the island, but for other things as well. Fall meant the start of a new school year—going back to school and getting all new school supplies, meeting new friends, becoming involved in new activities, trying a hand at new classes. For me, fall at home meant other new beginnings, too—family beginnings, community beginnings, personal beginnings.
Fall also brought about new beginnings around the island as well. As certain seasonal summer businesses closed for the colder months, including everything from boardwalk stores to restaurants to outdoor activity places, new businesses opened, always seeming to be sprouting up all over.
And with new beginnings also came new goals. A new season represented a time for change, and it didn’t have to be changing something big or drastically. It was about changing the small things. The things that mattered to me most at the time, like pitching in around the house more, or going out for the school soccer team, or getting involved in the community, or finding a winter job.
The Wildwoods also had new goals. There was always a new project in development, a new idea that the whole island patiently waited for, and the deadline date was the start of the new summer season. We’d watch the progression of the project all winter, seeing how it became more complete and one step closer to being finished with each passing month. That was the best part—watching. And it all started in the fall.
But as some things changed in the fall, some things stayed the same, and I was okay with that because that’s one aspect I liked about growing up on a small island. No matter what changed, there was still always some sense of stability. I always knew I was going back to the same school, with the majority being familiar faces. I always attended the same annual events going on around town—ones that I anticipated and looked forward to every year. I always ate at the same, quality restaurants that still managed to stay open in the off months—the ones that were community favorites needed to stay open in order for us to make it through the winter. And the best part about the things that stayed the same was that these businesses, events and programs all gathered the Wildwoods community together. We were all in the same place most of the time because there were only a few certain places to go. It was like having one, big family.
And perhaps that’s the point I’m trying to make: things can change, but still stay the same. And both are good. And just because I’m not home for majority of the fall doesn’t mean I’m not setting new goals for myself down here, at school. But, like I said, fall at home is my favorite time of the year, and I’ll be anticipating seeing Wildwood next weekend.
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