On the Outside Looking in ... as Summer Winds Down

By TED RITTER | Aug 21, 2019
Courtesy of: Ted Ritter The author’s daughters, Jayne and Dorian, seen here enjoying themselves on Bonnet Island this summer, could be spending some fall weekends on LBI – if their dad has his way.

My father always used little one-liners to help keep us kids on what he hoped would be a successful path. Among those I remember most: “Don’t be on the outside looking in.” Well, I’ve unfortunately been a little “off” this summer, kind of like I’m on the outside looking in as the season proper accelerates toward September.

Our Memorial Day weekend started off strong enough. I took that Friday off to make it a four-day weekend. But, as anyone with young kids knows, the end of the school year is always a crazy rush of activities wrapping up, concerts, recitals, class trips and other commitments. So we never made it back onto LBI until the weekend before July 4th, when my wife basically insisted that we come down for a quick dose of summer (and clams).

Our always-anticipated long July 4th weekend was cut short by two days because my 8-year-old daughter, Dorian, made the swim team at our town pool, and her first big meet was that Saturday morning. Usually in July, I take a couple of Friday vacation days to make long weekends, but with swim meets on Saturdays, that didn’t work this year. I tried taking two Mondays, instead; but, for some reason, it didn’t feel the same, plus I missed out on all the Friday morning garage sales.

When the extended family finally gathered in early August for a busy long weekend at my in-laws’ house in Manahawkin, I was nursing a stubborn ear infection that put a serious dent in my ocean swimming for the next two weeks. And, unlike the past few summers, we ended up not renting a place on-Island for a week each with our families this year (though we did spend a great vacation week in South Carolina).

So, although it’s been a very busy, and hot, summer, and we’ve thankfully spent at least some time on LBI, I just don’t feel I’ve reached my usual state of “arrival” that has typically kicked in by now. Summer, and its rejuvenating promise, feel like they’re slipping away.

But, as I write this, recalling my father’s one-liner, I’m starting to feel something change. Maybe it’s a late-season second wind that’s, hopefully, accompanied by some late-August swell. We took a key step in the right direction by checking out all the interesting new amenities on Bonnet Island last weekend. And coming up, we know we’ve got two long, beachy weekends heading into Labor Day. All good.

And what then? Well, a friend owns a great wine bar/bistro in Westfield but spends much time at his family’s longtime home in North Beach and on his beloved boat out of Barnegat Light. When I saw him at his bar well into last fall, and I asked, “Hey, Tim, how was your summer?” he quickly shot back, “What are you talking about?! It’s not over yet!”

So, with that framing in mind, perhaps this is the perfect opportunity to adjust the schedules and bring back the pre-kids-era fall LBI weekends that we somehow let slip in recent years. If I can stay “outside” for a few extra bike rides and bay sunsets, or get “inside” a couple of 50-packs of littlenecks, less-crowded favorite restaurants, and some head-high waves in 70-degree surf, I should be right as rain before the leaves turn. And then I can tell Dad that, in the Southern Ocean County interpretation, outside or inside doesn’t really matter … as long as you’re here.

Ted Ritter lives in Westfield, N.J., and is a lifelong LBI vacationer, his parents formerly owning a house in Surf City.



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