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In Love With A Jersey Girl: ‘Down The Shore’ With My Daughter

Beach Bum.

Oh, man. I had really forgotten how great it could all be, all this life and living.

But, last week, the day before Father’s Day, I loaded my 3 year old daughter Violet into the Honda and we headed out on the open road, just the two of us, for the first time ever.

We were bound for New Jersey, to the beach where my relatives had invited us to come and stay for a spell. My wife Monica had a serious eye infection and so, at the last minute, she decided that she had better stay home with our 1 year old son.

But, I had been building it all up to my daughter for so long now ( it had been  months since we begun making our plans, talking about seashells and the beach and the waves) that I knew there was absolutely no way that I could or would let her down.

We were going!

Down the shore!

A daddy and daughter trip for the ages, y’all!

And jeez, it had been so long since I headed down to the Jersey Shore, just me and a cute girl, that I had completely forgotten how life-affirming it can actually be. When you first roll off the turnpike, out of the dense hot Pine Barrens, and you whiff that fresh saltwater air rising up off the back bays besides the Parkway, something wild and savagely good happens to your guts.

You feel insanely alive. You feel woken up after a very long strange dream. Electricity jams it’s currents through your veins and makes your heart throttle and you know that within like thirty minutes: you and the little lady will be toe-deep in the sand, standing in the ocean’s cool spray.

If you’ve never been “down the shore,” if you’ve never sat in the miles of gridlock creeping along through Philly and then rolling ever so slowly off the exits for Atlantic City, or Ocean City, or Sea Isle, Avalon, Cape May, or wherever, then you might not know the particular sort of thrill I’m trying to describe here.

But if you have ever been, if you know those places, and that feeling of Friday night traffic leading you to those beach towns, well. Then you know exactly what me and the kid were feeling when came cruising across that first bridge, the radio blasting Jackie Wilson and Fats Domino, the sunshine glinting off the water and the boats as if the whole world was just a big old diamond ring; just me and my honorary “Jersey Girl.”

We had such a fabulous time together.

I hope you dig our pictures…

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  • The 85th Street Beach Kid 1 of 20
    The 85th Street Beach Kid
    This was only Violet's second time to the Jersey Shore, or any ocean beach for that matter. Last October we visited the beach, but it was a lot colder and windier than I was hoping. So, this was Violet's first SUMMER trip to the shore.
  • Plastic Gold 2 of 20
    Plastic Gold
    I love that my little girl is so easily entertained by a few plastic tools and four hundred billion tons of sand. She absolutely loves making sandcastles and just digging away.
  • Waves 3 of 20
    Waves
    The last time we hit the beach, Violet didn't really want much to do with actually getting in the ocean. But it was cold and I understood. This time though, I really ended up coaxing her a bit and before I knew it, I had a wave junkie on my hands! We ended up jumping so many waves that daddy's back felt like some snapped coral by day's end. It was awesome though.
  • Blue Skies 4 of 20
    Blue Skies
    There is such a gamble going on when you have to plan your beach vacation well ahead of time. Luckily for Violet and I, we ended up with some serious sunshine under which to build our cities of sand.
  • The Bucket 5 of 20
    The Bucket
    The night before we left on our trip, I was at Walmart grabbing some snacks for the ride and a few other odds and ends when I spotted a big pink beach bucket. It cost $4.99 (with shovel!). And now it seems so odd to me that you can buy something for like 5 bucks that ends up playing such a huge role in your memories. That bucket went with us EVERYWHERE! Seashell hunts, sand castle builds, tiny clam collecting, even to the shower when we were done our day...the bucket was our constant companion.
  • Early Risers 6 of 20
    Early Risers
    Each morning after we woke up at about 7 and had some breakfast, we headed straight to the beach. See, Violet LOVES collecting seashells (and to be honest, so does Dad) and early mornings are often a great time to find the cool ones. We really had some gorgeous long hikes up and down the beach and we were rewarded with quite a few shells that now call central Pennsylvania home.
  • Still Life Wth Mountain Man 7 of 20
    Still Life Wth Mountain Man
    I guess the hardest thing about not having Mom along for the trip was not having anyone to take our picture together. So, I only really was able to get a few of Violet and her daddy together. It's cool though, we were too busy having a blast to take a lot of pictures.
  • Staring At The Sea 8 of 20
    Staring At The Sea
    At times, I would catch my little girl glaring out at the endless ocean, seemingly mesmerized by it's vastness. It made my heart skip beats to see her so fascinated by the mysterious sea.
  • Evenings 9 of 20
    Evenings
    After our morning shell hunts, we spent a few hours having fun on the beach. Then, Violet was usually ready for a little rest so we went back to the house for a nap. When she woke up again, we headed straight back to the waves and sand once more. The evenings became our favorite time too, as people left us to a beach of our own!
  • Watching Her 10 of 20
    Watching Her
    Spending some serious time alone with your toddler is nothing short of mind-blowing, really. The things she can say now, the thoughts that she has and the way she expresses herself, her intense observation skill and her swift learning. Most of all, her awesome personality and willingness to have some fun no matter what the circumstances...it all made me stop more than a few times just so I could try and take it all in. "That's my daughter!" I kept whispering to myself. What a cool feeling to have.
  • Turrets And Moats 11 of 20
    Turrets And Moats
    We spent some quality hours making a medieval kingdom out of sand and shell chips and dried-up crab claws. Violet would get so excited when we'd turn over a bucket full of wet sand. "Castle!" she'd yell.
  • Alone/Not Alone 12 of 20
    Alone/Not Alone
    I felt a little bad at first since Violet didn't even have her little brother along to play with. And it seemed like most of the other children we saw on the beach were a little bit older. So, I began to feel as if she wasn't going to have a good time playing by herself at times. Boy, was I wrong. She is EXACTLY like me. She can have more fun just doing her own thing than she could ever have with a gang of peers. And although I can't wait til she does have a beach trip where she gets to splash and chase a bunch of friends, I was still deeply satisfied to see her little imagination running wild when she was on her own.
  • Pop-Pop And Grammy 13 of 20
    Pop-Pop And Grammy
    Our time at the shore was shared with Grammy and Pop-Pop and that made things pretty cool. They mostly did their own thing, but we were all able to have some really special beach time together too. Violet loved collecting shells with Pop-Pop and having hot dogs from 'Bernie The Hot Dog Man' with Grammy in the afternoons.
  • Wave Jumper # 2 14 of 20
    Wave Jumper # 2
    Pop-Pop also helped me with Violet after I'd lifted her "sky high" (her command!) over a thousand waves. When I had to go do some work, he'd step in and continue helping her jump up and over the never-ending whitecaps. That was big time help for Violet and I.
  • American Idle 15 of 20
    American Idle
    This fellow was a regular on the beach where we were, and after a few days I had made up my mind that he was my new idol. He just chilled there in the sand, a little transistor radio tuned in to the ballgame or some music. Every now and then he'd wander to the ocean, get splashed by a couple waves and then head back to Fort Chillaxation. Some guys just know how to live, I guess.
  • Boat! Plane! 16 of 20
    Boat! Plane!
    Violet and I had a little running game with who could spot the most boats out on the water or the most airplanes coming down the coastline with their advertising messages in tow. It was pretty funny when I'd holler out, "Airplane!" at what I knew was a seagull only to watch her take a second or two to realize it. When she figured it out, she'd crack a big grin and push me and say,"Dat's not a airpwane Daddy! Dat's a seagle!"
  • Scary Monster! 17 of 20
    Scary Monster!
    Something that I had never noticed before about my little girl, but which I discovered out on the beach, is that whenever she might be frightened or nervous or uncertain about something she yells out, "SCARY MONSTER!" It really tugged at my heartstrings when I realized why she was calling out "Scary Monster!" whenever she saw a big wave that she didn't like coming her way. What a freaking cool way express your fear, huh? Yelling," Scary Monster!" rules.
  • The Gull Whisperer 18 of 20
    The Gull Whisperer
    Violet was way into the seagull scene on the beach. At times, she's lift her head up from her digging or her wave jumping to see a flock of seagulls in a holding pattern over our head and she would shriek with joy. In this pic, she was watching a group of older kids as they managed to get some of the birds whipped up in a frenzy.
  • The Seashell Kid 19 of 20
    The Seashell Kid
    With her new plastic bucket in tow, Violet and I had some of the best times I can remember having when we were out there looking for seashells. And she's no shell snob either; bits of clam shell/smashed up snail shells/chipped oyster shells that looked like they'd been run over by a steam ship... they all went into the bucket. I actually fell hard for her shell collecting ways. "Nothing is too busted to collect Daddy," she seemed to be telling me. And, when I think about it, she's so right.
  • You’ll Sleep Good Tonight 20 of 20
    You'll Sleep Good Tonight
    Whoever came up with that term,"You'll sleep good tonight," had to have been at the beach with a 3 year old. Because when the day began to wind down and the sun began to slip out over the horizon, my kid was full-on Zonked. I'd get her cleaned up and de-sanded and fed and then it was right into the clean sheets. A few cartoons later, she was out like a light, ready to hit it all again tomorrow. So anyway,thanks Violet, for going to the seashore with your Dad. You gave me the most awesome Father's day I could have ever hoped for. I love you, kiddo.

 

 

You can also find Serge on his personal blog, Thunder Pie.

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More from Serge:

The Ballad Of Violet And Speaky: A Girl And Her Bargain-Bin Tiger, Part One

 

Beach Bums In The Mist:  A Taste Of Single Daddy Life

Before I Had You: Reflections On A Bachelor’s Life Before Kids

Now And Forever: How Being A Father Keeps You From Being A Dad

Come On Up For The Rising: Heading Home After the Fire

25 Things About My Son, Henry


 

 

 

 

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