Lakewood New Jersey. Nestled in the pine forests of south Jersey, Lakewood was a short distance from Lakehurst, “Airship Capital of the World.” Here, in the early 1950’s my parents bought a former “army barracks,” complete with two entrances, a large kitchen, and several bedrooms off both sides radiating from a long hallway. In July of 1969, my family huddled around our RCA Victor TV to watch Neil and Buzz land on the moon.
I returned to Lakewood with Gene…..oh maybe 5 or 10 years ago and I was thrilled to show him where I grew up in summers, swimming in Lake Carasaljo, watching the July 4th fireworks on the lake, picking blueberries in the woods and flirting with lifeguards.Those summers flew by way too fast. Returning to these places where childhood was carefree and every day was filled with adventure brought forth a flood of conflicted feelings.
The feeling of the sand between my toes, the sweet scent of bright white water lillies, the gutterel sounds of horny bullfrogs, and the rough feel and wintergreen aroma of the bark of pine trees bring me back to very specific days and times. Closing my eyes, I can recall conversations with friends, the cold tingle in my feet while I wade in the water on a chilly June day, and the feeling of the soft mud I would dig as a child, way deep below the sand. Mud that felt so smooth and pliable that I could make mud pies that appeared good enough to eat.
The memories bring tears to my eyes….and I wonder why it makes me sad. I think because of the loss of innocence, the days I can never recapture, but more likely the thought that the best times of my life are behind me. I don’t know for sure, but I do feel lucky to have had “Lakewood,” in which to live two months out of the year in my childhood and adolescent years.
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