By Bob Perks
"I’ve come a long way on this boardwalk," I said.
"Yes, it is a long walk, isn’t it?" the man replied.
I wasn’t really referring to how far I walked. It is two miles long and has more than 70,000 boards that make it one incredible walk.
I was really referring to my journey.
A journey from one end to the other. I’m guessing from what I saw the last two days, I’m about half way there.
We just returned from Wildwood, New Jersey. When we visit there we always stay at the Shore Plaza, because it is located right on the boardwalk. It’s an old hotel with a 50’s flair. Nothing fancy, but comfortable enough to bring back a million memories for me.
We were fortunate to have a room over looking the boardwalk. You must know by now that I love watching people. So that is exactly the way I ended each day there, sitting on the balcony watching people.
I see the boardwalk as a measure of time. It was last night that I realized that I have journeyed a little more than half way.
We rode bikes in the early morning from one end to the other. We walked in the afternoon and evening from one end to the other. But last night, our final night there, I saw the boardwalk differently. It was a measure of my life’s journey.
You see, we come to Wildwood now for different reasons. I love the food, the sun, the ocean and all the excitement of the bright lights.
But, now I go there to remember. Like going home again. Like walking down the street you grew up on.
Last night, alone on the balcony of our hotel, I realized that my journey began when my children were small.
As the years went by I went from bringing my two boys, to one and now finally, just the two of us.
I watched hundreds of young families pass by the hotel. The laughter, the joy, the moments frozen in time tucked away in their memories is all a part of their own journey.
A million waves have washed ashore taking with them hundreds of thousands of castles built in sand.
Thousands of lovers have tip toed along the shore, laughing, giggling silly words of romantic, forever dreams.
Moonlight danced on the sparkling ocean much to the delight of those whose journey nears the other end.
Today I stand somewhere near the middle remembering.
Don’t try to console me. I am an old romantic, a dreamer, a moody, sensitive man. I make no excuses for it. So when I say I’d give anything to spend a day at the other end of the boardwalk, where the young couples play and laugh with their children, leave me alone there in my dreams.
Perhaps if life is good to me, I can arrange for all of us to spend a few days together one more time there in Wildwood.
The balcony over looking it all is much too empty now. I’d rather be running, digging in the sand, and laughing with my boys. I want to go back and whisper sweet words of love to my wife as we dance to our own music of the night.
Because right now I can see the other end of the boardwalk all too easily and I’m not sure I like the view.
Early this morning as we were getting ready to leave, I walked out onto the balcony for one last sentimental view. There below me were two maintenance men replacing some of the old boards. One by one they pried up an old board and replaced it with a new one.
"Such is life." I said. Then a moment of inspiration.
We checked out of the hotel. I pulled my car up to the door and loaded the bags.
"I’ll be right back," I said to my wife.
Then I ran up the incline to the boardwalk.
"Sir, excuse me!" I said to the young man near the truck.
"You’ll think this is stupid, but could I have a piece of the old board walk?" I asked.
"I just need a piece of the old boardwalk."
He climbed up onto the side of the truck and reach in.
"Like this one?"
He had a small splintered piece about a foot long.
"Years ago I’d buy something for my kids that they’d end up breaking. Later, when we started coming here without them, I’d bring them a t-shirt. I couldn’t find a thing this time. You see they’ve both grown up. So, I was watching you from the balcony up there and thought, "Bring them a piece of the boardwalk!"
"Okay," he said hesitantly.
I gave him $5.00 for his efforts and as I ran back to the car I turned to him and waved.
"I’m hoping for a miracle!"
He looked down at the money and back up at me and shrugged his shoulders.
A piece of the Wildwood Boardwalk from right in front of the Shore Plaza Hotel.
I’m going to cut the board in three pieces and frame them. In the background I’ll place old pictures of all of us in Wildwood.
I can’t go back to the beginning, but I can hold onto a piece of it on my way to "The Other End of the Boardwalk"
"I believe in you!"
copyright 2005 Bob Perks
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