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The Villages
Thursday, June 23, 2022

Summer memories of a girl from New Jersey

Lisa DeMarco

“So, Grandma, what did you do in the summertime when you were my age?” my seven-year-old grandson, Jeremy, asked me as we officially cut the red ribbon for summer 2022. 

“Well, little man, I said. “let’s grab the buckets and shovels and dig in the sand while I tell you the stories about my childhood summers. 

Then, like Sophia from the cast of the TV sitcom Golden Girls, I went on to tell him my tale. “It was 1975 in New Jersey, and I was 7-years-old, living in the hills of Lake Hopatcong. My hometown was built around a man-made lake considered the largest in the state. Most residents only used it as a seasonal location.” 

“Like the snowbirds here in Florida?” Jeremy asked.

“Kind of,” I answered. “When my dad was a boy, his family used the home I was raised in as their summer cottage. They would spend the summer month there to escape the rush of living in New York City. Back then, up North, we did not get out of school until the end of June, but Memorial Day weekend launched the opening season for everything fun!”

On the weekends during the end of May, our lakes and state parks would fill up quickly. But by the end of June, busloads of tourists from other states would come daily to bask in the sun and enjoy our peaceful, freshwater beaches. Luckily, my family’s bungalow came with a yearly membership to the local beach club –  a cove on the lake that was restricted to members and their guests only. Summers were great! We’d wake up early and swim all day. We’d swing on the swing sets, dive off the docks, jam to music on the jukebox, and play in the sand and sun with all our neighbors and friends. Everyone knew everyone, and families mingled, barbequed, picnicked, and enjoyed sharing the great outdoors!

“Did you have alligators?” Jeremy questioned.

“No, baby. New Jersey doesn’t have alligators,” I answered.

“What about sharks? Did your beach have sharks?” he asked.

“No, Jeremy. We didn’t have sharks in our lake,” I said. “Sharks are only in saltwater, like the ocean.”

“Well, does New Jersey have an ocean?” he questioned this time with a little more attitude.

“Of course, silly boy, the Jersey Shore!”

“What’s the shore?” he asked.

“The shore is the beach. The seashore!” I said.

By now, he looked baffled. Cross-eyed and attempting to change the subject, he asked, “So, what other FUN things did you do?”

“Anything and everything we could to fill the day. We would ride bikes, jump rope, hopscotch, skip rocks, collect fireflies and tadpoles, play kick-the-can, hide-and-seek, and freeze tag. We’d rollerskate, build forts in the woods, climb trees, and pick wild blackberries off nearby patches.”

“What was your favorite part about summer, grandma, other than not going to school?” He giggled.

“Without question,” I said, “I LOVED hearing the happy tune of the Good Humor ice cream truck jingling through the neighborhood.”

We would do any chore we could and save any change we found just to have the money to buy something when he came by. My mom always had Good Humor treats in the freezer, which she purchased at a third of the price in the grocery store. But, somehow, they never tasted as good on the days the ice cream truck came.

Jeremy asked, “Is that like the ice cream trucks that drive on the beach in Daytona?”

“Exactly! They would drive around town. When you heard the music playing in the distance, you would dash home to beg for money. Then, you and all your friends would wait at the corner of the block for him to drive up.”

“What was your favorite?” he asked.

“Chocolate eclairs every time. Unless they were sold out – because they were so popular. Then I’d be forced to get either a push-up or a screwball with the gumball at the bottom.”

Again, Jeremy looked at me like I had three heads. “So, just asking, what’s your favorite part about summer now, grandma?”

“That’s easy lil man. The best part of summer nowadays is that I can still act like a 7-year-old, but I now have my own transportation and a platinum credit card account.” I laughed. 

And with that, I vowed that we would add as many sun-filled, joyous memories as possible to my scrapbook of life this summer.

Laugh on. Peace out!

Lisa DeMarco is a columnist for Villages-News.com

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