Every Wednesday my mother, my brother, and I would pack up our silver minivan with plastic sand toys, three beach chairs, and a light blue cooler full of snacks. We would then take a five minute ride to the small private bay beach in our neighborhood to meet up with our friends.
We called it the end beach, and for most of my childhood, it’s where we spent a majority of our summer days.
When we’d arrive at the end beach we’d always park on the side of the road, right by the pile of gravel. Now, if you came to this shindig barefoot, you were screwed. The dark asphalt and grayish, dark blue rocks soaked up enough heat to barbecue the bottoms of your feet to a crisp.
Sometimes there would be broken glass scattered around the road from late-night party goers. This would always cause some sort of issue – I can still hear my mother lecturing me as to why I should’ve brought my shoes.
After hopping over the fiery tar, my feet would cooly land on the still-hot sand. My already-boiled skin would then redden to the color of lobsters, but I didn’t care. I was more concerned about what lay before me.
Once I threw my load of beach supplies onto the sand, I would run into the bay and let the brisk salt water engulf my body. My heated skin finally gaining relief from the hot, Hamptons sun.
I would then be greeted by my friends. Our group consisted of two sisters, Michelle and Jennifer, who lived a block away, two brothers that lived across the street, my best friend since I was two, Carleigh, and her brothers, and finally, my second grade friend, Jackie. We would all discuss as a lively group about what we should do that day. It was here our imaginations would take control and guide us.
I can recall that as a small child one of our first endeavors was playing King and Queen. We’d take our small yellow-and-blue beach chairs and place them on the highest mountain of sand we could find. It was here we would establish our kingdom. I was always the Queen and together, with the King, some princesses, and our subjects, we’d rule over the entire end beach. We would also go on various sorts of adventures. Ones full of fighting monsters and discovering magic objects.
We’d soon grow out of fantasy and go towards something more dramatic: pretending to be standard on a deserted island. Most of us only watched two shows at the time: Survivor and American Idol. Our imaginations grew from these shows and brought us ideas of trying to latch our boogie boards together to form a makeshift raft.
It never did work. We’d always find ourselves abandoning the project and getting distracted.
However, one fateful day, we weary stranded survivors found ourselves drifting towards the very tip of the end beach. It was here, we found our new promised land.
After making a boundary line out of twigs, seaweed, and rocks, we deemed our point to be “Kid Island.”
Not very original, but we’d soon make up our own little town, one that would be rebuilt over and over countless of times. We’d set up our own little shops, homes, and various establishments. It was our paradise away from the adults who watched us from miles away in the desolate adult wasteland.
At Kid Island, you would never grow up. Grownups were not allowed and if you even told an adult about Kid Island, you would never be welcomed back again.
We thought we would never leave. It was the one place that felt like time stood still. Kid Island was eternal, unbreakable. We kept growing stronger and stronger. We’d dig tiny bay pools by the shoreline and fill it with various minos we’d catch to observe. We’d walk on the long sandbar and take strolls, trying to find sea creatures. It’s where we brought my cousin to when he visited from New Mexico and it’s where he accidentally put two crabs into his back pocket… I think you have an idea of what happened there.
Kid Island was where my most prominent childhood memories live and breathe. Unfortunately, one day we all found ourselves slowly leaving Kid Island.
Two friends moved away, some new friends joined, a few drifted away, and some stayed together. We all found ourselves in different roles, different lives, living as different people. Suddenly, things weren’t as carefree as they used to be. Life became heavy and soon, those Wednesday beach days were nothing but memories.
I barely get to go to the beach nowadays. I’m eighteen. I’m in college, across the Sound in a different state. I have a nine-to-five job that I’m trying to use to pay for college.
As a child, I thought I would stay on Kid Island forever. No one was ever going to kick me out and throw me into the desolate abyss of the adult lands. A never ending spiral of no man’s land.
Times have changed, that’s for sure… But even though I don’t have the same amount of free time I used to have, I still visit that end beach. I still get excited whenever I think about it or whenever I even get the slightest glimpse.
It’s the same beach I would escape to when I was sad or lonely and just wanted to think of the good times. When I wanted to be happy and let it all out.
It’s the same beach where I’d race my friends in the salty water. It’s where we’d chase horseshoe crabs and it’s where we found a seahorse while we were clamming. It’s where I had my first encounter with jellyfish and what to do if you’re stung. It’s when my cousin threw our little bodies in the water like frisbees and it’s how I learned to have fun and how to properly build a fort out of sand and boogie boards. It’s where I saw the sunset every day over the Shinnecock Bay and got to watch various colors explode in the sky.
It’s where we’d daydream about the future and think about what our lives would be like ten years from now. Back then, graduating the sixth grade seemed like a distance away.
I may have left Kid Island. I may not be a Queen or an island drifter anymore, but I’m still me. Those memories, that beach…they’re still there. My town has changed and so has my life, but it’s comforting to know that at least the memories are still there. Even though there are days we all yearn to return to those days. To relive the past, we look back on those memories and use them to strengthen us. To remind us we can still be the carefree, stupid kids we used to be. So what, you grow up. You get old, you grow a few wrinkles, and lose the shine in your hair. I may not know what it’s like to go through a midlife crisis or get married, but I know well enough that no matter the age, we can all use some innocent, childlike fun, to be young at heart and escape out our windows like Peter and Wendy.
I owe a lot to those Wednesdays at the end beach. It’s because of days like those I got to say I had a magical childhood, and it’s something I’ll treasure for the rest of my life.