I was born on an island, surrounded by beaches too unsafe to swim on. I was around 10 years old when my dog, Dutchess died. I begged my dad to take me with him when he went to bury her under the crumbling boardwalk that flanked the condemned beach. It was dawn. I watched from our old station wagon. He carried the body, wrapped in an old comforter, from the car the way one would hold a baby. He somehow managed to dangle a shovel from his fingers. I sat and waited and stared at the rusty sign that read “BEACH.”
1982: Road trip to Wisconsin. One of only two “real” vacations with my family, the memories I hold from that time are fragmented and hazy. I have snippets of lying in the back of our wood-paneled Caprice Classic with my brothers and two dogs, covered in fur and dog slobber and sweat, wind blowing so loud I could barely hear the AM talk radio buzzing in the background. Random visions of rest stops and picnics. Mom was born in Wisconsin and we were going to see all of her cousins and her grandmother, “Grandma Black.” She made her own strawberry jam and her house smelled like gingerbread, with hair as white as clouds. Some relative of ours lived in a “round house.” That’s what it was….round. We went to the lake and sat by the campfire. And then there was the greenhouse. The Black family owned a greenhouse with flowers and plants as far as the eye could see. All these things I remember partly because I lived it and partly because I have photos that jog my memory every once in awhile. Sometimes I wonder how much of my life I actually remember and how much is recreated through pictures.
My first job was at McDonalds. I was thrilled to have some extra income and quickly became the “drive-thru” expert (This was a most-coveted position, as you got your own little booth and no one looking over your shoulder. The food would come from the kitchen on a conveyor belt!!) After a while, I became friendly with some “regulars.” I eventually got to know one customer, in particular, very well and we ended up going on a date. One date, to be exact. He drove a Mercedes and I took the bus. He was 30 and I was 16 (I lied to my parents about where I was going). We had nothing in common. He took me to a small beach on the “other side of the island.” It was beautiful. Breathtaking, actually. The date, however, was awful. We literally had nothing to talk about. I don’t remember his name or even what he looked like...but I do remember that beach. It was all worth it.
I met husband at work. He was the “IT guy” and I was in Marketing. I was living with my (then) ex-boyfriend at the time (darn NYC leases), and he was living with his (then) girlfriend. Neither of us was looking for a serious relationship. We ended up getting engaged on our second date (totally unplanned, no ring, no real “proposal,” just an agreement that we were meant to be together forever!). He drove a U-Haul into the Village that week and we packed up my things while my ex-boyfriend was at work. I left (him) a note and the security deposit. Two weeks later, my “fiance” invited my mother and friends to a bar to see him sing. I forgot you’re in a band!!! Jackpot!!!...and so I went to see my fiance’s band for the first time ever. He played his guitar to a full house in a small “Jersey” bar. Then, he called me up on stage. He had a ring this time and proposed on his knee in front of his soon-to-be mother-in-law-he’s-never-met before...and we have it all on video. I wore leather pants. Perfect!
And so, as I sit back looking at the tangerine-streaked horizon and reflect on my life thus far, I think: It’s good. No, it’s been great. Life is interesting and magical and beautiful and wonderful. A picture can preserve a memory or spark a memory or inspire a memory to be created. They capture what our minds let go and hold clues and hints and layers in them for all those who choose to look.
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