June 17, 2024
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June 17, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

There could be worse places to type this out than a block away from the Jersey Shore, where my family goes for a few days every summer. Our annual trip to Wildwood is usually the summer’s last hurrah. We pack up our bags, my parents load up the car with plenty of gas, and then it’s time to take a three-hour drive down south!

My siblings and I enjoy one of our favorite pastimes in the car, which is annoying each other. For instance, this year, I came up with this amazing (or amazingly annoying) “song” called “Island Vacation,” as a joke about all of the “islands” we’ve been visiting this summer. (Manhattan, Staten Island, Island Beach State Park, and then Wildwood itself. If you were thinking of the Bahamas or Hawaii or something like that…we wish.) So I enjoyed serenading my siblings–mainly my brother–with the beautiful tune, and he showed his appreciation by telling me, “Oren, stop singing that song!” Clearly he’s not appreciative of my art. (In truth, the song is terrible and for some reason I still find it catchy.) The rest of the car trip is spent playing on our phones/iPods/gadgets/etc.

So one long car ride and a stop at a ShopRite later (where we loaded up on real food and a ton of kosher cake), we arrived at our destination. We always stay in a little hotel a block away from the ocean–it’s not exactly “oceanfront,” but it is pretty close. Once we checked into our little cozy hotel room and unpacked a little, what do we do? Turn on the TV or try to get a WiFi signal! I almost wish I were joking, but it’s not as bad as it seems. I mean, we need to unwind a bit after sitting still in a cramped space for so long, and the best way to do that is to sit still in a non-cramped space for a little bit.

But enough about that–I mean, I didn’t start writing this to talk about our television watching by the shore. What do we actually do in Wildwood? First, there’s the beach. Free, pristine, and the ocean is always nice and blue. We set up chairs on the sand and all promptly conked out. Well, my parents did anyway. To them, the beach is the perfect opportunity to fall asleep listening to the waves and enjoying the ocean air, and I completely understand that. I enjoy relaxing and closing my eyes for a while, but later I want to go into the ocean, to feel that sense of adventure I always experience when I step into the sea. So later, I went in with my Boogie Board to ride the waves on my stomach. The water’s cold at first, but later it feels so good.

Then there’s the long, bustling boardwalk a few blocks away from the hotel. Of course it’s filled to the brim with dumb tourist-trap stores. (Some of them advertise “$5 T-Shirts!” but in the fine print mention that it’ll cost far more if you want to actually have it say anything.) But the best parts are the amusement piers. Morey’s Piers is an amusement park taking up three piers towards the center of the boardwalk, with rides ranging from tame kiddy trains to three-loop coasters. I’m a coaster guy myself, but I don’t get a chance to visit too many theme parks, so getting a chance to experience those thrills and go on rides that seem intent on making me fall out of my seat is quite exciting (at least to me; I don’t blame anyone who disagrees).

Near the amusement piers is a massive arcade where I can blow a ton of money on trying to win a toy from a crane machine. My attempts usually end in “AAAH IT JUST DROPPED IT AGAIN!” (The machines are rigged to some extent, I’m sure, but for some reason that doesn’t stop me from wasting my quarters…)

Overall, is Wildwood really just a vacation to me? It’s more than that. It’s a place where I can actually let go of my worries, take a deep breath, and stop thinking about everything I need to worry about. Yeah, I could do that at home during the summer, but it’s not the same for me. At home there are still constant reminders of school and work and challenges, and it ends up as the same setting I’ll be in when I’m once again mired in work and worries. But down here at the shore, I can actually let go. There’s no reason for me to worry about anything when I can just close my eyes and listen to the waves lapping at the shore. I can actually relax, for once, and I know that I should appreciate that now, and savor it once I get home to the routine and everything else in my life.

Just so you know, the irony of all of this is that by the time you’re reading this, I’ve already started junior year of high school…Summer always feels like it goes by too fast. Farewell, summer; feels like we’ve barely known you.

Oren Oppenheim, age 16, lives in Fair Lawn, New Jersey and is entering junior year at Ramaz Upper School in Manhattan. He spends his free time writing and reading, and hopes to become a published novelist. You can email him at [email protected].

By Oren Oppenheim

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