I have a clock that produces bird songs on the hour, and the bird for 7:00 is the robin. I just love that song. It sends me home to my childhood in New Jersey. (The clock also devours batteries, so it’s often silent for months at a time until I feel like feeding it.)
Next to robins and my brother, the thing I miss most about New Jersey is the ocean. We lived about six miles from the Atlantic, and I rarely saw it until I was in seventh grade and was old enough to walk or take the bus to the beach.
When I was very little, we would go to a park with a little beach on the river, and we would swim there. I have a memory of my dad swimming with me on his back while I held on with my arms around his neck. There was a little pier people fished off of (I had a bamboo pole, but I hardly ever caught anything), and sometimes we’d jump into to the water from there.
There was slimy seaweed in the river, and also horseshoe crabs, with a rigid tail which we kids called “stingers.” They creeped me out, and I lived in fear of stepping on one. It was said that if you stepped on a “stinger,” it would go right through your foot.
We lived around the corner from the public elementary school. (I attended the Catholic school five miles away.) The campus property was part of a former farm. There was a pond there called The Cow Pond because supposedly one of the farmer’s cows drowned in it. During the winter, when it froze, we’d ice skate there. One summer I found a plank of wood and thought it would make a good raft, so I threw it in the pond and hopped on.
It did not make a good raft. I went home in wet clothes and had to explain to my mother why I would do something so stupid as jump onto a piece of wood in the pond.
There was a small wooded area on the school property that we called “the woods.” I spent many hours of my childhood in there. A huge tree stood in the middle of it with thick branches that we all loved to climb. Eventually the woods were cut down and a primary school was built there. I mourned the loss of my climbing tree.
The elementary school had an incredibly smooth sidewalk at the front of the building. That was my favorite place to roller skate. This was in the old days, when you attached your skates to the bottom of your shoes and tightened them into place with a skate key.
It’s funny how listening to the video of the robin brought all these little scenes back to mind. At the time, I thought my town and my life were boring; but now my childhood seems magical.