2002-04-06 / Letters

Relives His Rockaway Youth

Relives His Rockaway Youth

I recently went to the beach on one of those blistering august days when the sun is so bright and the air is hot and a bright blue cloudless sky beckons you to the ocean. I jumped into the dark blue surf and immersed myself in the pounding waves of its cool temperature. I dove through waves as the salty brine was absorbed within all my pores, coming up drenched and surrounded by white foam. After a while I came out invigorated and refreshed. I sat myself down as the suns rays pierced through damp salt air. Taking a clean white terry cloth towel I patted my face and from that towel and salt air I remembered summers long gone by.

I remembered sunny days when bright rented colored beach umbrellas dotted white sandy beaches. When Noxema was the only way to protect the rays of the sun. When the beach was a pirates sand and the treasure was the largest seashell that could be found. The waves were bigger then or so they seem to be . I also remember walking through backyard gardens until I came to the rear of grandmas rented house. The water still played an important part for taking showers in the outside wooden stall was a must before one could enter. As bathing suits hung out the line to dry the smell of grandmas cooking permeated the air. There were other smells of whiskey and beer that later I would come to know and respect. It was a not really a house but a big Victorian mansion with one room in which we resided. After a fine dinner just as the sun was to set and the cool night air would start to approach. We would go out on the old front wooden porch where friendly strangers would creak back and forth in old wooden rocking chairs. I was introduced to each and everyone by my proud grandfather. They would pat my head and say kind things although none of them I can now recall. I would ask him if we could go on the rides. Can we go on the rides ? Can we go on the rides? Can we pretty please go on the rides I would persistently say. And then off I would go with this over-loving, over-caring kind man. He would take my hand and with his straw hat, sweet smelling pipe and beaming pride intact we would go off into the dark night air to a enchanted land where innocent imagination becomes reality. I can recall those lights and sounds so clearly now. Do you want to go on the whip first, then the bumper cars and save the roller coaster for last or how about the haunted house, penny arcade and then the Ferris wheel? Oh what a delightful choice I was given. I could smell the popcorn as we passed by the man that was always trying to guess your height and weight. The whip would spin me around on every turn as all faces turned into a laughing blur. The rhythmic sound of the carousel could be heard as we ate a hot slice of pizza and washed it down with a syrup sweet coke all for a quarter. He lifted me up on the counter as I rapidly fired the air rifle at the passing ducks. Then we tossed coins on the red & green tile dots or was it plastic rings around wooden bottles sometimes I can’t recall but knowing him it was probably both games we played. A stuffed animal prize was always won but not for victory just for trying. It turned out that grandpa had connections.

My hands were sticky from half eaten cotton candy as I tied balloon strings on my arm. We rode the big wooden roller coaster at the end of the night. Up and down the steep hills and valleys of the steel tracks we soared into the night with speeds and sounds that overshadowed our white knuckle scream and fears. The night ended on the boardwalk where lemon ice or a soft vanilla ice cream cone was dripping down the back of my hand as the sky burst forth with Wednesday night fireworks. Glaring rockets of all shapes and sizes pierced the blackness above our heads as showers of brilliant color lights dazzled us down below and I so loved the bright white light and loud explosions that no matter how many times you said it wouldn’t, it would still make you jump and twitch.

So many august summers have gone by since then way too numerous to count. Three years ago I drove back on a sentimental journey and saw that time had taken its toll. Both the roller coaster and Ferris wheel are gone. In fact my childhood memory was covered over with a black asphalt parking lot with a convenient store. A question that comes up whose answer might only be of interest to myself and maybe Holden Caufield is when there are no more carousels, where do hand painted horses go? Perhaps they are caked with childhood dust in a amusement retirement farm. It is no longer economically feasible to have fireworks light up the nights sky and sweet syrup cokes have been replaced with a pre mixed carbonated formula. I passed by the old Victorian house that still stands and there are old people with nameless faces that still creak back and forth on rocking chairs. Both my grandparents have been dead for many years, good kind people that they were. May their souls rest in peace.

When I think of it time is so cruel it took everything. It took away dear loved ones, painted horses and glowing skies, youthful innocents and a grandfather’s pride. But alas! The answer is that I am able to think of it and time is not that cruel at all because it left behind white terry cloth towels, salt water, seabreeze and ocean waves that will never go away. And these are all I need to trigger & jog my memory so over & over I can relive my happy youth.


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