Sunday, November 18, 2012

Thx For The Memories

Each summer, for as long as I can remember, I walked the entire length of the Brigantine Beach--from the end of the wildlife preserve on the North End to the end of the South Jetty.  That sounds more impressive than it actually is--Brigantine is no more than 7 miles long from point to point--but it a tradition that I upheld for many, many years, accompanied only by my Walkman...and then my Discman....and then my MP3 player...and finally, my iPod.  It was just me, my music, my thoughts, my beach and the only place that has remained constant in every single year of my life.

I should clarify two points.

1.  I took that walk every summer- except for this last one.  This summer, I was too busy, or too tired....too something-or-other...and I assumed that since little ever really changed in Brigantine, I could just resume the tradition in 2013.

2.  It is no longer the only place that has remained constant.  It had remained constant for many, many years, but no more.  Hurricane Sandy took care of that.

That's the thing about luck...and make no mistake, I've been extraordinarily lucky and for no reason that I can explain.  It runs out.  It runs out, often abruptly and without warning.

Had I known on Labor Day, as I packed up for the summer and left the little house without so much as a backward glance, that it would be the last time I would see my house looking anything remotely like my house,  I would have paused, taken it all in and given reverence to all of those big and tiny moments that took place between those walls.

I didn't know.  

I didn't know, I didn't think and I didn't say goodbye.  I can't remember the exact way the day played out--it was so ordinarily chaotic--but I'm sure it involved a flurry of making sure the car was completely packed and racing out the door to beat the traffic or to go the grocery store or something similarly inconsequential that seemed so critical at the time.

That house, as I knew it, is gone.

I don't want to make it sound more grave than it actually is.  The little house is still standing, and from the outside, it looks exactly the same as it always did. 

And that's where the similarities end. 

Bad things happen to the insides of homes when water, lots of water, sit inside them for 5 days.   

I need to pause to acknowledge that so many people have it so much worse.   This isn't my primary residence.  The house is insured.  I still have a warm place to sleep at night and no living things were harmed.   This is by no means catastrophic.

But it's still a loss.

It's a strange loss, too.  It's not so much a loss of things and so much more a loss of memories---memories that I'd hope to share with Little M, and while she experienced some of them, I doubt she'll remember.

There were many times, especially recently, when I flippantly (and scornfully, might I add) referred to certain features in that house as "the land where time stood still".     When you sleep on the floor because the bed you slept on in middle school wasn't really cutting it anymore (on a carpet in a sea-foam green color, to boot), you don't exactly stop to think how cool it is that your daughter got to sleep in the same exact bed that you did when you were her age.  When you trip over the over-stuffed and goldenrod-applianced kitchen, you think of your stubbed toe, not that the kitchen and its furnishings are amongst the few tangible things that your daughter can see that connect her to her great-grandfather that she'll never meet...and for that matter, you never really got to know yourself.

It was when my brother, dad and I cut and carried out a floor's worth of cold, soaking wet sea-foam green carpet (that was mixed with sewer water as an extra added bonus) that I started to realize that you can rebuild and you can modernize but you can never replace.

We sorted out and evaluated a lifetime's full of "stuff"...that didn't even include the furniture...and, in that process, we came across so many things that I had hoped to one day show to Little M, and now won't have that chance.

This is not to say that it was a completely unpleasant experience.   My brother and I are still, well, us....which basically means we are completely ridiculous...and I have not laughed so hard in years.

We might have taken the opportunity to rid the house of some items that weren't actually destroyed...but were just ugly/tacky/heinous/WTF were you thinking.

We might have discovered that there were multiple items in our medicine cabinet that expired in 1994.

We might have realized that our mom's issue with buying generic crap when generic will just not do has hit epic proportions...and just might have thrown those items out with glee.  (PS- Generic Oreos=child abuse.  Just sayin').

Oh yeah, and we discovered that my brother's dirty magazine collection from the early 90s (abandoned under a bed and forgotten for decades) ranks with Cher and cockroaches in terms of natural disaster durability.  I mean, really....those things survived without a mark on them.  How?   Seriously?  How?They also afforded us with the rare opportunity of completely horrifying our parents.  Once you hit your 30s, those moments are truly hard to come back and SHOULD ALWAYS be cherished.   

Next summer, we'll return to a place with a new kitchen, and new walls and new furniture and new everything.  We'll marvel at how good it looks and how new everything is and we'll start about the business of building new memories.  We'll sit in the new kitchen, and have breakfast and dinner and tell stories.  

And I will close my eyes and picture the old kitchen....the one I thought I kind of hated...and see my grandmother having her apres-beach beer in the frosted glass she kept in the freezer.   I will see the kitchen table where my brother and I had food fights, the table where we'd late night card games and even worse cocktail concoctions (Gin and Slurpees, anyone) and impromptu Jay-Z dance parties.  The table where my girlfriend-sisters would talk about boys and paint our nails/drink wine from a box or (God help me) Alize because we thought that was classier than Boone's/eat ice cream.

Look back.  Look forward.  And never, ever, ever again take for granted.

(and PS- I still maintain that Alize is waaaaaaay classier than Boone's),

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