Time for Mrs Fringe to have the first beach day of the season to herself. I feel pretty lucky to have kiddos that recognize my particular brand of lunacy requires both beach time and occasional time by myself. So the other day–the day before the girl’s last day of school– I checked the weather (iffy, which made it perfect to not bring Art Child), packed my bottle of frozen water, bleach-stained oversized towel, my trusty black and white composition notebook (just in case I should be inspired to write, hah!) and got on the train.
At first it seemed like the iffy weather prediction was completely wrong. A bit of wind, but blue skies and sun all the way. A bit more wind. Eh, the sand scraping across my skin is free exfoliation. I can be freckled and have a youthful glow! Before two hours had passed, I found myself wondering how long I could lie there with sand blowing straight up my nose before I suffocated. I gave up. Took my towel and headed back toward the train. While I stood on the boardwalk shaking out my towel, I thought of the many times I had gone to the beach in my angsty teen years, shivering in out-of-season winds while sitting on the rocks writing horribly overwrought poetry. For some reason I also remembered going with my mother to the “big girl’s” shop on Coney Island Avenue, to buy housedresses for a relative in California, while my father sat in the car outside, grumbling about muumuus. Shh, it’s a secret, don’t tell anyone. For my mother, the secret was that this glamorous, beautiful cousin was a “big girl.” For me, the secret was she wore house dresses in her home that seemed like a mansion compared to our semi-detached brick two family house. For the love of God, she had gotten three thousand miles away from there, didn’t she know there was a reason they didn’t sell those polyester monstrosities in Southern California?
It’s a funny thing. When I was growing up, I couldn’t wait to “escape” South Brooklyn. Seriously, it was like living the script of Saturday Night Fever, those bridges and tunnels represented everything. I’m a cynical gal and always was, but I can and do certainly look back and realize my rose-colored glasses were firmly in place, like most other young people. If I lived in the city (people who live in the outer boroughs refer to Manhattan as “the city,” regardless of the fact that it’s all five boroughs that make up NYC), life would be different. I would be free, not trapped, living the life I always wanted. You know, in a cold dark garret, chain smoking clove cigarettes while scribbling the great American novel. Manhattan/Paris, Nineteenth Century/Twenty-First Century–it’s all the same thing, right? I’d be living the dream. Regardless, I certainly wouldn’t spend twenty years dodging PTA meetings and worrying about doctor’s appointments. Whatever happened, I would never find myself back in Brooklyn. Most of all, I would never, ever wear a housedress.
So what do I do now with every opportunity on beautiful (or iffy) summer days? Hop on the train and go over the bridge back to the Brooklyn, of course. Just the beach, but. No matter how many times I’ve gone back, no matter that it’s been a firm part of my summer routine for eons, I have to laugh at myself. The first couple of times I went back, I wondered if I would run into anyone I knew. Never have. Who knows, maybe I’ve been towel to towel with someone who graduated from high school with me and neither of us recognized the other. I quickly stopped thinking about it. The realities of living in a city so densely populated is that I have people who live on the same floor of my building that I don’t see for months, sometimes years, at a time.
This winter I reconnected with an old high school friend, through Facebook. She left Brooklyn before I did, and it turns out she too, is back in NY, living in a different borough. We briefly talked about meeting up, but it hasn’t happened. What would I say, without judiciously chosen and edited photos to represent my life? Badge of honor, I’ve never worn a housedress! Still, I found myself on Brighton Beach Avenue before I got on the train, looking at my favorite (cheapest) variety store running a going-out-of-business sale, and wondered if I had $5 on me.