A Night to Remember

Written By: Grace Reuben

The East End is the preeminent place to be during the scorching months of the summer’s heat. This is what I’ve come to know. July’s sizzle would begin and loom over my head. My eyes would register the flourishing hydrangea. My feet would rest under the weighty Peconic Bay sand. I would hear the rush of the calm waves. I would smell the bitterness of the salty water. Shelter Island, NY would envelop this special feeling.
Often, my family visits Shelter Island to see my grandparents and stay at their little beach house. Getting there requires taking a small ferry from the mainland onto the island. Once you arrive it’s almost as if the island awakens from the shadows and opens its arms out to the adventurous spirit inside of you. It offers you a plentiful amount to do and see as well as relaxing at the South Ferry Hills beach around the corner from my grandparent’s house. Surely a lot of cherishable memories are made spending many summers in this magical environment. Although, when I ponder deeply upon my most admirable memory, a specific one about a certain 4th of July weekend ranks first.
Day faded into the night, sparking the beginning of our traditional 4th of July weekend beach night. This memorable occasion features various events that include roasting gooey marshmallows and night swims. My favorite part though, is watching the fireworks being launched off a barge floating in the Peconic Bay. Seeing those bursting balls of fluorescent glow light up the sky like Times Square brightening the City, is simply entrancing. At the evening’s beginning the beach was far from sight. We needed to get there. We sped down Robin Lane towards South Ferry Hills eager to shower ourselves in the joyous environment. We approached the end of the street, and took a sharp turn onto the next. The drive was a rollercoaster from there. Steep, skyscraping hills traced in and out of the landscape, each more of a treacherous climb than the previous. Once we reached the top of a hill, we would roll down the car window and cascade down, wind blowing in, without a care in the world. Great memories like these are made on Shelter Island. Great memories like these give the East End its superior charm.
Massive oak trees towered over the road, their shadows devouring the vehicle. Very venerable, they stood watch over the community for hundreds of years, witnessed reality as itself, but have never moved a muscle. Thin gossamer leaves formed a canopy above, finally opening up to the blinding sunlight. Salty air leaked from the outdoors permeating the car. The beach came into view, and my heart beat with excitement. We had finally arrived and Shelter Island was about to be experienced at its finest.
The car heaved to a stop, freeing us from the claustrophobic environment. I opened the door and an immense gust of wind caressed my hair. The smell of sea salt staggered in its path. It was cooler out on the water but the humidity still raged on. My grandmother and my mom unloaded the trunk, stuffed like a thanksgiving turkey with all the beach essentials. The beach was truly beautiful at this time of night. The moon was concealed partially by the gloomy night, casting a faint glow onto the rippling waves. It was high tide at this moment, and a meager layer of sand stood stark against the glowing backdrop. Sag Harbor was a thin strip of land in the distance, barely visible to the naked eye. The world seemed so alive even during the midst of night. I balled my fists in efforts to contain my excitement. I had traveled all this way to come here to be with my family and enjoy Shelter Island, and here I was, “s’more” roasting, night swimming, creating a night to remember at my fingertips. I could decide to spend it any way I wished. I hastily helped unpacked the car, then helped my grandfather tinker with his sailboat. When done, I finally got to unleash all that excitement and go for a jubilant swim. I ran towards the water feeling as if I could fly! I charged in despite the slightly cold temperature and surrounded myself in the calming, sedative waters. The rocks felt jagged and uneven under my water shoes, but the soothing sound of the midnight waves brushing the sand, made every bit of pain disappear. The bay was evidently quiet at the hour, though the faint hum of the South Ferry was still present. I watched it from the water, as it departed Shelter Island carrying the passengers to the mainland. A thought developed about when my family would board that ferry boat and embark on our journey back home. It was immediately erased from my head. The distant sound of my uncle and sister laughing caught my attention. They were splashing and playing in the water, trying to make the most of their last night on the island together. I nonchalantly waded over to them, deciding I too should join in on the fun, when was interrupted by an abrupt call for “s’more time!” I swiftly trudged through the water, specks of salt water flinging into my mouth, burning my taste buds. When I reached the seashore, my father was just starting the fire. I watched wisps of smoke whirl and sparks fly, until glistening flames grew from the pile of wood. The flames danced through the night shining in hues of red-orange and yellow. The fire took off and this night was just beginning; it was definitely going to be a memorable one.
The moon hung low in the sky swelling with radiance. Its glow was softer now, and our fire was the main attraction lighting up the dark. I peered towards all the water-front mansions, noticing the jet black darkness portrayed in some of their windows. Why were some empty? Or had these islanders retired to bed? Our party still roared on. I brought a sticky s’more to my mouth, and the taste of bitter salt water was replaced with irresistible sweetness. The smell of burnt embers and melted chocolate wafted throughout the air. My cousins and I laughed all night, and a flurry of pure happiness hovered over the campfire. I looked at all my family members faces, their eyes glossy under the firelight. We were all as happy as a child on Christmas Day.
Abruptly the fireworks went off. The first one was caught by surprise, dazzling the whole sky with an array of vivid colors. They collided in the sky creating a sensational light show that made the stars look like frail streetlights in the heart of chicago. We all sat gazing at the entrancing colors as the deafening booms echoed in our ears. Every star that was previously situated in the night sky was now hidden in the firework show’s rain-shower of colors. The finale was about to occur, and my grandmother sat me on her lap so we could experience the magic together. My family watched the last firework light up the Peconic Bay, lighting up our hearts.
I fell asleep on the car ride back to my grandparent’s. Here the East End had crawled back into its shell, and the island too mimicked my sleepiness. It must have been a quarter-past-eleven by the time we got to the house. My family enjoyed spending these moments together as they would later tell me. In part this would forge a permanent part of my heritage. It still remains in my heart as a admirable place to spend my summer vacation.