When I go to my parents’ house, the house that I lived in from age 12 through 18, I always have to deal with an onslaught of memories. I’m reminded of things I haven’t thought of for a long time, just by taking a look around. As strange as it is to see so much exactly the way I left it, it is utterly disorienting and upsetting to see something destroyed.
Last summer Hurricane Irene hammered the east coast (and according to Wikipedia, it was the fifth most costly hurricane in U.S. history). My parents live one block away from the great south bay off of long island. When the hurricane hit, they were evacuated as some weather models were predicting the worst. Luckily, the water did relatively little damage to their house, but others in the neighborhood did not fare so well. There were trees down all over the place and widespread flooding. I remember freaking out in Boston as I saw all of the photos of the devastation (which could have been a lot worse) being posted on facebook and different long island online newspapers.
The casualty that affected me the most was the dock that I’ve included a picture of here. It used to connect to the sand so that you could walk out onto it, and it continued out into the water in an L shape. I had some of the most memorable and meaningful conversations and encounters of my entire life on that dock.
After I was suspended in middle school and faced potential expulsion over a freedom of speech issue, my mom had a serious talk with me while we sat on the dock. She made it clear that I was stupid to let people see what I had written, and that I had to be more careful in the future. (It is certainly debatable, while reading this blog, if I have learned that lesson.) But she also vowed to fight for me and find a way for me to return to school no matter what it took. I will never forget feeling that support and knowing that I was not alone.
The summers were often rough for me as I lacked the stimulation that learning in school provided. I hated the sun like I continue to hate it now, so there weren’t many places that I could go for shade and comfort. I would often hide underneath the dock on the sand with my gigantic book of the day, often Stephen King or some other such escapist material. Whenever I am absolutely stressed beyond belief, I close my eyes and remember being in that shade underneath the dock and it calms me down. The peace of that spot, the smell of the air off the water, the sound of the waves breaking, the feel of the sand on my bare skin - picturing this brings me solace no matter what.
In high school, my first boyfriend and I had our first kiss and decided we were going to go out while we sat on that dock. We cuddled against each other and made it all official. I felt that rush of excitement and desire and we began our 2 1/2 year relationship. We would often return to the dock and make out and discuss our futures. I learned what it was like to love someone while lounging on that walkway of wood.
Even in cold weather the dock was there for me. I’d bundle up in a long coat, hat and gloves and brave the wicked wind to stand at the end of the dock and watch the moonlight flicker off the ice. One Christmas while I was in college, my boyfriend at the time surprised me with a visit. It was the first and only time he visited my childhood home. I immediately knew I had to take him to the dock on the bay and show him where so much of my personal growth had occurred. We braved the frigid temperatures and I showed him the beauty of the water. We talked about how much we meant to each other and how wonderful it was to be together. Promises were made and signs of affection were exchanged. I felt protected and complete.
In addition, the dock was my first place to escape to while growing up. Whenever I needed some time alone, some time to think, some time to just exist apart from everything else - I walked down to the dock and reaped immeasurable benefits from its perfection. I wrote some of my most revealing diary entries while on the dock, able to access a deeper part of my consciousness. The dock allowed me to see my problems as something I could conquer instead of something that would consume me.
And thus I was devastated when I went down to the bay yesterday and saw the state that the dock is in. It has sat unusable for nearly a year, since the hurricane, despite numerous calls from many people in the neighborhood to the town. It makes me sad that others are being deprived the beauty and comfort of the dock, that my place of refuge is no longer accessible.
If this was a lifetime movie, the people of the neighborhood would band together and fix the dock as a team. But no one wants to undertake a project like that. No one thinks it is their problem to solve. So the ruined reminder of the brighter moments of my childhood remains.