My husband and I both grew up at the Jersey Shore, both on barrier islands. I in Ocean City (Exit 25) and he in Chadwick Beach (Exit 82). It’s not much of a surprise, then, that we ended up living in Alameda, an Island City off the coast of Oakland. The need to be surrounded by water is just in our DNA.
A strong desire to live near the beach isn’t the only genetic imprinting that happens when one grows up at The Jersey Shore. There are other predispositions: abiding love for soft pretzels, boardwalks, and soft serve; memories of horseshoe crabs (in decline now due to pollution), jellyfish, and sand crabs; and perhaps the most deeply rooted of all, an almost reverent devotion to the music of Bruce Springsteen.
At the risk of sounding blasphemous, I didn’t become a complete devotee until I was in my 20s. It was 1995 and my then-boyfriend and I packed up our yellow Ryder truck and set out from the dead-end street near his parents’ home on our move to San Francisco. Fittingly, Thunder Road played as our wheels took us slowly away from the place we’d known all our lives. Following The Boss’s command: We were getting out while we were young.
I’m not the type to brag about my accomplishments, in fact, I usually write about myself in a somewhat self-deprecating manner. This makes what I’m about to say all the more unusual. Ready? Here goes:
I. AM. AWESOME!!
I just fixed the printer. It took me several hours over the course of the day, in fits and starts between diaper changes and dinner dates, but I finally fixed the darn thing!
Now, I’m sure the last thing anybody wants to read is a play-by-play of how my mind works…but on the off chance I can spare others the aggravation I experienced, I’m going to share the breadcrumb trail I followed to Fix-it-Ville.
Uncle Jim (left) and my dad.
As long as I can remember, I have held a strong affection for old photographs. Finding boxes upon boxes filled with old pictures in my Nanny’s home and, after her death, in my father’s garage, is the one silver lining I can find in her proclivity for hoarding. When my father died nine years ago at 61, I was grateful to my Nanny for having kept his baby book, complete with photos, milestones, and a lock of his hair—so that in the midst of our sadness, my sisters and I could marvel at our dad’s cheeky grin and the twist of curls that once topped his head. So much life had passed between the moment captured in the photograph and the moment that I held it in my hands. It helped us in those days after his death to think of the beginning of our dad’s life as we braced ourselves against the grief of its end.
On New Year’s Day, before we had kids, my husband and I would organize all of the photographs we had taken during the previous year and put them into a photo album. While the process was long and tedious, it was also incredibly rewarding. The finished albums served as a memento of all of the adventures we had had throughout the year. We still bring them out from time to time to show our kids pictures of us when we were young and worldly globetrotters.
Musician Spencer Lewis
About ten years ago I happened to win a massage in a silent auction at a fundraising event for an environmental organization. Our cat had just died and I figured I could use a little TLC.
A few days later, I drove up to Fairfax, CA from San Francisco for the massage. The minute I laid down on the table, I felt raw. All of my grief over losing a beloved pet came to the surface. And then the music began to play. It wasn’t the standard soundtrack to a massage. No waterfalls or bamboo flutes. The lyric-less guitar and violin music rose up and receded, mimicking my emotions. I hadn’t heard anything quite so deeply soothing before.