I woke up this morning listening to the rain on the roof and it falling all around us. We had the windows open last night, so the rain patter sounds were all around us. In the pre-dawn stillness of when even the birds aren’t awake yet, it reminded me of being little at the beach in the rain.
I am sure some of you have memories of rain at the beach? When the air is just full of that salty grey almost puffy fluffy heaviness? The air is not only wet and heavy but the mist seems to have a life of it’s own. But it isn’t an unpleasant heaviness as it was often a break from land breezes and end of summer hot and humid weather.
When it rained at the beach it was like the sea and air met as one. I remember going as a little girl to the then tiny and old Avalon, NJ library. Not the new library that stands today, but the little old dark one which still stood in the early 1970s. When you went up the stairs and opened the doors they gave that old creaky and heaving sound. Inside the library was dark and had that beach smell of sand and mildew. I remembered picking out well worn copies of Nancy Drew books to take home and read. Or maybe we would go to the Paper Peddler and buy a book or a copy of Mad Magazine (which my mother hated).
Also when it was a rainy day, it was the perfect time to go down to the Avalon Pier. On the beach at 29th street it was a movie theatre and shops, and I also remember Skee Ball. I also remember a tiny cedar shake shingled general store down around 7th or 8th street that had penny candy. Once when we were really little a friend of our parents and their friends named Weezy gave us each $1 and told us to go blow our minds. Root beer barrels, Charleston Chews, Mary Janes, those little colored sugar dots on white paper, caramels, and more.
Rainy or overcast days also remind me of the annual photo taking of my sister and I at the beach. They seemed to have been taken towards the end of summer after my mother had doused our hair throughout the summer with lemon juice (and peroxide ) to give us blonde highlights (and strict instructions not to tell anyone, especially our father that she was doing this.)
In those days, Avalon had really tall dunes and the island began at 7th street. The first few blocks of Avalon washed away before I was born. That was the famous Ash Wednesday Storm of 1962, which was truthfully a Hurricane Sandy-like storm. But the only a block of houses were swallowed by the sea at that time – 6th street. Below that had never been developed because of tides. This 1962 storm was what caused the Avalon Hotel to be moved to 8th street. As a little girl I remember looking out over those beaches down by 7th street and wondering what the swallowed block of houses looked like? Was it a perfect bunch of houses just underwater like the fictional Atlantis, or a jumble of destruction?
The dunes were so huge when I was little. I remember going through the twisty beach paths with mountains of sand and dune grass and scrubby pines and even some old beach (probably rugosa) roses. This is where I first fell in love with black eyed Susan’s and beach daisies which grew in and on the edges of the dunes along with other wild flowers and cacti. In the summers when I was little too you could often see the sea turtles come ashore and lay their eggs and then wait for them to hatch and see all the little turtles head for the sea.
Rainy days and winter days like this were always my favorites on the beach. You would come through the dunes to the wide open and empty beaches. All you saw was the wildness of the ocean as it churned and sea gulls and sand pipers and other shore birds. A day like today would have been a perfect day for finding shells and beach glass and drift wood.
Days like today also remind me of a cabin owned when I was little by family friends. It was in Avalon on 13th street. It was originally owned by Woodrow Wilson when he was at Bryn Mawr College. I found it listed on the Internet today and was delighted to see that not only is it still standing but it is remarkably unchanged except for updated appliances from when we were kids! I remember the sound of rain when you were on the front porch and when you were upstairs in one of the two bedrooms under the eaves of the house.
It’s funny how certain kinds of days just take you back in time. I don’t go to Avalon any longer. I stopped years ago when it really got built up. Ironically, we went to Ocean City when I was really little and my sister was a baby. I think she was 3 or 4 when we moved to Avalon. We used to stay down in the Gardens when we went to Ocean City. It was a marvelous section of Ocean City, and yes, there were lawns and gardens. And Mimosa trees.
I was pretty little when we went to Ocean City so I don’t remember everything, I remember more like snapshots here and there in my memory. When I was a little kid I loved Avalon. Probably because I loved that it was more open and the dunes were so magnificent. But I haven’t been to Avalon in years, or Ocean City except for a day trip a few years ago to see friends. Both towns are too built up now for me, but I still love Cape May and Cape May Point.
Anyway thanks for taking a trip down rainy day memory lane with me!