Sunday, November 4, 2012

What REALLY Matters Most

Whenever I’m writing, my natural inclination is to ask, “Is this fair?” but I've been working hard to allow myself to only focus on “Is this true for me?” because the point of this blog was/is for me to be true to myself and tell my story and not be pulled into telling anyone's story but mine.  And I am doing that.  I have inched my way into my truths, some truths — but there are entire areas of my life I have yet to write about and share because, well, because.

"What Matters Most" was difficult for me to share because it revealed a painful and humiliating piece of the past and my present.  When the assignment was given, I just responded and what I wrote surprised me but I went with the gut instinct to dump that which was buried inside and bothering me — still. 

The place I went in the summers (when I was lucky) was Belmar, New Jersey where my Gramma had a house four blocks from the ocean.  Four blocks from the boardwalk and the arcade — where I played Skeeball for hours on end until my money ran out, trying earnestly, religiously to win those tickets.  Tickets that you could redeem for prizes.  Those prizes that at the time, seemed so incredible.  Spent all summer trying to save up for some big prize.  Years later you realize those prizes could have been purchased for far less than those quarters and quarters and more quarters inserted into the slots of those machines.  

That boardwalk — with all its garish pleasures — is no longer.  The cars in my uncle’s driveway were flooded to the trunks and the water rose up the brick steps, over the porch and climbed further into the first floor.

As a child, sometimes I visited Seaside (south of Belmar) where my father's family rented for decades. Seaside — Heights or Park — the draw for me was the boardwalk. And on that boardwalk most memorable was a roller coaster that I was terrified but drawn to — the Wild Mouse — roller coaster of immense size, perched on the edge of the boardwalk and perilously close to the water’s edge.  When I did summon up the courage to ride that coaster, it was non-stop horror.  Throughout the ride I was terrified — that I would be flung from my seat and go sailing out over and into the ocean — no matter how tightly I gripped the bar that was supposed to keep me in my seat.  I only survived those rides by squeezing my eyes shut and praying to God that I would NOT be propelled through the air into that ocean.  I saw the Wild Mouse on TV the other night.  Still visible but now sitting in the water. 

And though you haven't been hearing much about it, Broad Channel.  Since she was seventeen, my mother-in-law has lived on a block in Broad Channel, Queens on Jamaica Bay in New York.  The only island in Jamaica Bay.  A block where her parents lived and then later, with her husband, bought a small summer house in 60s. When her parents died, her younger sister continued on in that house and then their brother moved across and up the street and raised his family in a year-round house.  Another sister and her husband bought a summer house on that road, and her nephew moved in across the street with his wife and two small children. This is a community of year-round and summer homes of tight-knit families. City workers, ship and tugboat engineers, firefighters, police and tradespeople who had their homes engulfed with three-four feet of water pouring in through their living room windows — overturning refrigerators and televisions; ripping air conditioners out of windows, slamming them into walls and doors.  Torrents of water soaking the furniture, floors and walls, and floating the possessions and memories of their lives long-lived in these homes out of those rooms and into the streets.  Broad Channel and so many other communities in NY and NJ will never be the same.

Governor Chris Christie must be applauded for publicly voicing the emotional damage caused by this disaster.  He spoke to parents about the importance of calming their children's fears and then he reminded us that for most of us, home is a placed filled with what we love and it's the place where we escape the world, shut the door and feel safe.  When you lose that — the feeling of safety and security — then you feel lost, bereft, and that too is what this storm has done to so many, on top of the physical and monetary damage.

I am glad I posted the three-parter "What Matters Most,"  but in light of Hurricane Sandy I needed to say I know what’s important is family and friends — not an office or a job, or even my beloved thrift-store art finds.  The devastation of this storm has left families without the essentials of life food, clothing, heat, hot water, even a roof.   Worse may be the loss of what is valuable to all of us — our memories.
A personal note: Before posting today I hit over 10,000 pageviews — in just under eleven months. I am congratulating me — thanks to you.  Thank you for reading. Cause for me, writing is another thing that matters most.

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