This past Tuesday, August 6, was my mother’s 31st anniversary in heaven. For some reason, this does not make me as unhappy as it used to or as unhappy as Mother’s Day sometimes makes me feel. I feel a certain nostalgia, maybe because the summer holds such special memories for me regarding my mother.
Many things in our society have changed, but the one constant is that Rockaway kids have the life. When we were kids, my mother barely used the car. We rode our bikes EVERYWHERE. While today’s kids have SFDS Summer Classics, we had the St. Camillus blacktop softball league, which was run by Bob Summerfield with help from Mrs. Magee, Mr. Wilson and Mr. Loof (Rockaway’s now best dressed man). We rode our bikes, either with my mom or with friends. I guess one thing that has changed is I do not remember locking up the bikes at St. Camillus and today my bike would be gone in a flash.
Another thing we did that most children do is we went to the beach EVERY day. Sometimes we were down for the long haul and sometimes when Mom was busy she took us down for just a swim. Of course, that swim would last at least an hour. I clearly remember telling my brother, “Here she comes, do not look towards the shore and make believe we do not hear her.”
On the days we went for the long haul, everyone had a job: mom made us sandwiches, I made a jug of either iced tea or “red drink mix.” We never had Hi-C or Hawaiian Punch. We had the generic white label with the black wording. We also packed some snacks, which were also of the generic nature. No Oreos for us, we had chocolate cookies with vanilla cream or vanilla cookies with cream. Sometimes the cookies were a mixture! My brother usually carried the towels and boogie boards down to the beach and complained the entire way.
What also happened every day is my mother watched us in the water. We were taught to be mindful of the tide and she constantly yelled at us to either move over closer to her or to move in as we liked to push the envelope. She also was known to yell at a few lifeguards when she did not think they were keeping as close an eye on us as they should.
As I got to be a teen and went to the beach by myself, I still walked over to say hello and check in with her. I always could see her standing in the shore watching my siblings or if there was a break in the swimming and my brother was playing whiffle ball or running bases, she would be relaxing and reading.
So, as I am of course sad she is not here to see her five beautiful grandchildren, I am lucky enough to have had fifteen wonderful summers making memories with her. And I hope I instilled the same fondness for the ocean, the beach and Rockaway in my children.