Each time I travel back to my childhood environs, I promise myself a day at Ocean Beach Park. Even the name conjures up sun, sand and surf. In its heyday, the airwaves reverberated with the sound of abandoned fun. Now the carnival has moved to warmer climes, the carousel, its glitter tarnished, has been dismantled and the harsh buzzes and loud noises of mechanical games replace the penny arcade. Within the cool interior of its now-abandoned roller skating rink, my errant footsteps echo through the building’s emptiness.
Later as I step onto the boardwalk, I can see the distant shoreline lying calm and I’m greeted by the whisper of gentle waves. I seat myself on a nearby empty bench and settle down to indulge in my favorite pastime - people watching. The hat that shades my face from the dazzle of unaccustomed sunlight bestows anonymity.
I follow the path of a youngster as he churns the sand, his speedy steps taking him to a sleeping body stretched out on a blanket. He stops to share his excitement, all the while his suit of water dripping on the unappreciative adult. Innocent act of annoyance completed, he turns and races back to the enticing water.
Close by, a group of young adults fling themselves into a vigorous game of volleyball, clinging wet sand glistening on lean, sun-bronzed bodies. With bare skin covered in the skinniest of bikinis, these young girls are aggressive in their enjoyment of the moment.
An older generation shares the boardwalk with me. They move at a slower pace, appreciative of the visual delights and solid platform for their walk. The couple stroll side by side, their aches of arthritic joints responding to the sun’s penetrating warmth. Another woman seated close by cautiously raises her skirt to the knees, exposing white shins.
Such are the images I impress on my memory. Later, in my land-locked home, though winter days of sun-less hours and frigid winds take away my breath, I will snuggle in my recliner and revisit these moments, returning once again to this pleasurable time.