This weekend, I am writing this from Jacskonville Beach, Florida where I am attending my high school reunion. I am siting in the hotel room looking out at the beach where the gulls and pelicans are winging their way over the palm trees and a lonely walker is strolling out the pier a half block north of here. What’s wrong with this picture; I’m at the beach, why am it not our there enjoying the surf and sand. I’ll tell you why, we are having a Nor’Easter, that’s why. The skies are cloudy, the rain is intermittently rattling the window pane on the other side of this desk. And the wind, oh my, the wind! It is blowing onshore at 20 mph with gusts to 30 or so. So instead of frolicking on the white sand. We are all in our rooms resting up for the festivities tonight.
I remember when I was growing up on the west side of town my family would often to pack into the car and drive to the beach to watch the surf when Nor’Easters would blow by. When they came during the summer, it was a great relief to stand on the ramps between the dunes and feel the cool relief of the wind and the rain. As today, the beach would be mainly deserted with just a few stalwart souls feeling the excitement and energy of the wind and the rain. The sand was a different story. You wanted to get past the dunes as quickly as possible because the wind blown sand would sting mightily.
These days, the law protects the dunes and they are covered with vegetation, sort of a cross between grass and sawgrass. There are plumes of sea oats whipping around in the gusts and the tops of the palm trees are pulled back like buns on women’s hair. The “foreheads” are a lighter green and it looks like the wind may pull out their hair if it gets much harder. Between the dunes every hundred yards or so are the wooden ramps granting access to the beach and the surf. The tide is coming in so right now there is only about a hundred feet between the dunes and the surf. The sandpipers are skittering in their frenetic dance at the edge of the water looking for lunch and dodging the oncoming waves.
It has been fifty years since I have been on the beach in a Nor’Easter and I can tell you that nothing much has changed. There is a brick decorative boardwalk lining the dunes on the land side, the old sandy trail leading from First Steet to the dunes has been replaced with a neatly trimmed park and the ad-hock parking has been moved to a public parking lot one half block from the ocean. The old lifeguard station is on the other side of the hotel and there is still a couple of wooden 15 man lifeboats parked on the edge of the boardwalk in case they are needed; just as it was in my youth.
So tonight, my classmates and I will gather once more and remember the old days, the parties on the beach. Some of us have hair the same color as the beach now, and we are all wondering where all these middle-aged people came from. The conversation is sometimes about the old times but other times they are about children and grandchildren and families. I look at some of my classmates and I can see their parents in their faces. Life is in its fullness now for us and it is good. Oh MY!