1962 beach memory

my-first-memory

In the early 1960’s I was a toddler splashing in the waves at Rockaway Beach, Queens. Laughing I ran toward the water. Shrieking I backed up from the water. Waves tickled my toes. I ran away from my big sister, Ronnie, and found starfish near the jetty. “Go in the water and wash the sand out of your bathing suit,” Mom said.

We summered in a rented bungalow on Beach 98th St. half a block from the subway and half a block from Playland. The bungalow had one bedroom where all the kids piled in one big bed. I hated the cold water outdoor shower. I loved crowding around the table for cereal and eating sandwiches on the front porch.

This is similar to our bungalow court.

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Best Waves Ever

As I’m recuperating from my broken toe I’ve reached into my memory vault. Again.

Uh oh.

Let’s start at the beginning.

The weatherman reported that the storm was passing out over the Atlantic and the lifted hurricane watch. Maybe we can go down to the beach now I thought. Throwing down magazines John and Tom sprang up. “Mom will probably be OK with it,” Tom said. Aunt Ann allowed us to walk to the beach. We sprinted out the back door, grabbed towels off the line, and headed to the beach.

We noted the folly of listening to the weatherman, blue skies and sunshine told us what we need to know, as we strode down to the beach.

As we topped the stairs we spread along the beach wall to survey our foe. “Those are some big waves,” I said. “Just big,” Tom added. John, between me and our cousin Tom grinned, Well….”

The lifeguard jumped off his stand as we walked across the sand. John and Tom slid behind me as we stopped. “You swimming?” “Nah,” Aunt Ann said we could walk to the beach. The three guys exchanged glances. “The water’s fine.”

We spread out and gazed at the ocean. The lifeguard smiled at me. “Look, there’s no one here. I can watch you.” We threw down our towels and sprinted into the surf.

Laughing, shouting, we body surfed in the rolling waves. The life guard waved us left a few times.

Uh oh.

Hands on hips, beach coverup flowing back from her legs, visor clenched in her fist, I saw her: Aunt Ann.

“Turn around, Tom,” I stage whispered. “What?” “Aunt Ann is here.” Three pairs of big eyes exchanged looks. “John and I can pretend we don’t see her.” “Good idea Cathy. Tom, she’s right. Our glasses are on the beach.” Tom furrowed his brow and cocked his head, “Oh?” John positioned himself to catch the next wave, “Come on, let’s act like we didn’t see her.”

We returned to body surfing.

Aunt Ann stomped over to the lifeguard stand. Leaning in toward him she pointed and gesticulated. Tom, sharp eyes, reported Aunt Ann was yelling. “What?!” He explained, “her mouth is wide open.”

We continued pretending. At the end of a ride, shaking my head standing in thigh high surf I saw Aunt Ann stripping off her visor and beach cover up as she strode toward the surf.

We planted our feet and stood in the surf pounding our chests when she dived under a wave.

Uh oh.

“Come on,” Aunt Ann shouted as she positioned herself to catch a wave. We surfed huge rollers under the bright sun and the watchful eye of the lifeguard.

 

As  we toweled dry the lifeguard greeted us. He kept smiling at me. “Thanks for running interference. What did you say to Aunt Ann?” “I’m the best lifeguard and hadn’t taken my eyes off you.” I pinked up. “That made her laugh….and I said she might like it. These are the best waves I’ve ever seen.”

 

Sunshine, hot sand. the best waves I’d ever seen, body surfing with John and Tom, flirting with a lifeguard, and learning Aunt Ann was a champion body surfer: does life get better than this?

Becoming a water rat

Swimming….I love it. Pools are OK.

I’m home when I’m swimming in natural water.

A toddler in the early 1960’s….the ocean….splashing in the waves at Rockaway Beach. We summered in a rented bungalow on Beach 98th St. half a block form the subway and half a block from Playland. I lived in paradise all summer long.

In 1968 during day trips to Rockaway Beach, Dad taught us to body surf. Body surfing….free….easy….fantastic.

My brother, his friends and I competed for longest rides. We traded war stories about scraped chests. In 1971 I learned to check that my bikini top was in the right place.

“Mom, can I go to the beach with my friends?” Mom sighed, “if your sister goes.” And later, “take your little sister.” Summers in junior high and high school meant 2 hour subway rides each way to Rockaway Beach.

While there are no waves in the Chesapeake Bay, my go to spot is 20 – 3o minute drive and I feel free….easy….fantastic.