Manasquan is the homestead of my heart. Sea water is in my veins from years spent at a summer home on the Jersey Shore, a place cherished by my family for two generations. It is a house but more, it is sand and salt and sea and freedom. It is memory and friends who are closer than some blood relatives. It is a place that stands strong in my memory, though it has been 50 years since I spent a summer there and more than 20 years since I’ve seen it in person.
My maternal grandparents bought the house and the one behind it as a unit in 1934 during the height of the Depression (and who knows why anyone thought that was a good idea). They were on a relatively quiet beach close to the Manasquan Inlet. The other houses in the neighborhood were owned or rented by families with children so there were always kids to hang out with, for my mom’s generation and for mine.
We spent long days going from towel to surf and back to towel, talking and listening to music and entertaining ourselves with those our own age, whether that age was 5, 15, 32, or 60. We were in and out of each others homes and lives, summer after summer. We became family.
We marked the summer by dates: Opening Day when beach badges were required. Memorial Day, when we took down the window battens and swept away the winter sand, opening the houses for summer. July 4th meant fireworks seen from the sandy beach, grilled burgers and corn and fresh juicy Jersey tomatoes. Summer ended with Labor Day, which always brought rough surf, families gathered from multiple houses to share cookouts, and the packing away of the houses. I still go there in my mind and heart and keep it close with a small glass ball on my desk, filled with sand and shells and seaglass from Manasquan beach.