By Naomi Serviss
When I was ten, my friend Terri invited me to spend a week
at her family’s Beach Haven summer place,
down the shore.
Down the shore
is how Philadelphians describe going to a New Jersey beach.
Terri also unkindly let me know I was her second choice,
after her first pal bailed.
Still, a week down the shore would be dreamy and I was grateful.
Beach Haven has long been our family’s Shangri-la.
We’ve beachcombed, been lulled by the endless surf
and struck seashell gold with intact clam shells and mysterious driftwood.
Once we found a wayward starfish that we coaxed back into the sea.
Emmy loved eating at Jeffy’s because,
as the window placard stated:
There’s Something for Everyone!
One September, we had to hightail it home
because of an impending hurricane.
It’s a gamble going off-season, but the rewards often outweigh the risk.
Lew and I have started a new family tradition, three years running.
Just us so far.
One day with the kids.
A few years ago, I researched and found
a no-frills, immaculate, three-story beachfront motel.
The reviews of it on assorted travel sites cinched the deal.
A family-run operation for decades.
It’s the perfect location, with Barnegat Lighthouse at one end,
a nature preserve on the opposite.
We fell in love with this Beach Haven nest
from the moment we set foot
in the cheerful, light-flooded room.
A balcony overlooked the crashing waves,
salt spray doused the crisp air.
After this past year of discontent, we counted
the days until September 20th.
Our never-ending light and sound show
was just outside the screen door.
Sunrises were magnificent.
Lew, a nocturnal sort,
appreciated each daybreak.
The first night’s full moon
stunned with its looming presence.
The ocean’s symphony calmed
and reassured us.
A sign of hope for
mistreated Mother Earth.
We lucked out weather-wise, rained just once,
and were rewarded with a fully arching rainbow
across the sky.
The whole gestalt turned us into
giddy teenagers, grateful to be
in the moment.
Simple pleasures like an extra-large coffee
and an indescribably delicious oversized pretzel wowed.
A treasure found was an Australian-made hat
with SPF 50 built-in.
It wasn’t about the stuff.
Granted, the lobster roll was beyond amazing.
Lew’s tuna tacos were spot-on.
Our four nights sped by.
I have nearly finished Hayley Mills’
memoir and am shocked!
Hayley was a child actor who rocketed to
stardom in Tiger Bay when she was merely 12.
Her father, the venerable actor John Mills,
eased her initial nervousness.
She was a natural performer, unaffected and
It’s a terrific read, especially
These past five days were a tonic.
Away from the constant drilling,
hammering, honking, air horns
and rowdy ATV drivers on West 96th Street.
Our moods lightened and our breathing seemed to
sync with the sea’s ebb and flow.
We’re holding onto the feeling.
Small shells strung on dental floss
now hang from a wooden blind in front of my
I can still see that 10-year-old girl
whose passion for life
was ignited one summer
by a salty breeze and a rising tide.
Naomi Serviss is a New York-based award-winning journalist whose work has been published in The New York Times, Newsday, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Highroads (AAA magazine), in-flight publications, spa and travel magazines and websites, including BroadwayWorld.com