The beach is called Bar Beach. It's not a glamorous beach by any means. It is quite utilitarian in the sense that while pleasant, it is little more than a sandy inlet on the north shore of Long Island. It is sandwiched between the slightly more glorious "Hempstead Harbor" and far less glorious "Water Treatment Plant."
We didn't go to Bar Beach a lot growing up, but there was one day we never missed.
Every year, on the Friday before Memorial Day, Bar Beach held it's annual Fireworks Spectacular. And on that day, the Boehmckes loaded up the car for 6 hours of what in my memory, is pure bliss.
I don't really know when we started going, but I don't ever remember not going. It was one of those things that, by the time I was a sentient human being, was already a part of the fabric of our family.
We went every year.
I'd get home from school at 3:15 or 3:30 to find my parents already home from work. My dad would have the trunk of his car open and be packing up coolers, blankets and beach chairs.
My mother would be in the kitchen packing up the snacks; fresh fruit and cookies, always cookies.
Oh how my family loves cookies.
My sister and I would hurry up to our rooms to pack up a sweatshirt and sweatpants for when the sun went down.
And in almost no time we'd be in the car on the way to pick up some fried chicken to bring to the beach for dinner.
For many years, until it closed, the place we went to was called 'Chicken Galore.' The sign outside had some faded image of a yellow chicken dancing around, seemingly completely unaware of what was going on underneath him.
When the chicken made it's way into the car, and the smell infected us all we'd sing this ridiculous song that went:
I feel like chicken tonight, like chicken tonight.
And my mother and I would start flapping our wings. I don't know if that was an actual song, the jingle for Chicken Galore, or something my mother made up.
We'd arrive at the beach before most, the sun still high in the sky, and unload all of our stuff to get to the beach in one trip.
We were always part of a group of families that went, four or more families creating a sandy island of blankets, beach chairs, and fried chicken. We'd locate the families already there and begin the delicate ballet of trying to lay out all of our stuff without spreading sand everywhere. Sand, that despite our best efforts, almost always ended up seasoning our chicken shortly thereafter.
Man this chicken is so moist I really *CRUNCH*
Everybody was always in a good mood. Why wouldnt't they be? Everybody was out of work early and sitting on the beach at the front edge of a three day weekend. I could barely contain my excitement.
Once we were setup and in place, we'd open up our food and listen in to the entertainment for the evening.
They were a half dozen Dean Martin wannabees in mint green and white jackets on the stage of a mobile bandstand belting out the hits of 40 years ago with as much enthusiasm as though it was their debut concert.
It was where I heard hits like Beyond the Sea and Mack the Knife for the first time. To this day it is hard for me to hear any of the songs from that time without thinking of The Capris.
After we ate the kids would wander off together. We'd create games to play, or walk along the beach picking up shells we'd eventually lose track of.
We'd have sand fights which almost always ended in screaming and tears.
But after the majority of sand had been removed from ears and eyes, things went back to normal. Transgressions on the beach were quickly forgiven
Some years when the sun went down, the beach got very cold, some years the temperature barely changed at all. But as we got older it seemed as though the landscape changed, or my sister and I did. It seemed kids from other schools started attending in larger numbers, but more likely we just started noticing it more.
We began spending less time with our families on the blanket, and more time seeking out our friends.
High School saw us trying to coordinate with our friends before we got to the beach based on where we had set up the year before.
OK you know when you see the bandstand, the second light pole from the right before you get to the benches, we're usually between there and the ocean.
Ridiculous plans that we tried desperately to adhere to.
As day turned to dusk, and dusk leaned into night, the vendors selling glow necklaces and bracelets would venture along the beach.
When we were kids we'd lay on the beach looking for shooting stars. As we got older we pursued far less elusive things the dark could provide.
But no matter my age or the year, I always loved the fireworks. I have met people in my life who tell me they don't like fireworks, or don't get them. Often, I don't get those people... or don't like them.
I have always loved the soul shaking boom of the explosions, the overwhelming brightness you anticipate but are still affected by. It was the most impressive and magical thing I can remember as a child.
I had friends in high school who looked to other substances to enhance the experience, but I didn't need that. Nor did I want it. The evening in and of itself was all I really wanted. Regardless of the friends, or girls, the fireworks were enough for me.
The night would end and if we hadn't already, we'd return to our families, commencing our critique of the fireworks as we all packed up our stuff.
Do you have all your stuff?
That question would be asked no less than 9 times before we left the sand.
We'd then make our way to the parking lot and load up the car before sitting in traffic on the one road that could get you to the beach.
I'd quickly fall asleep, head against the window, or the middle arm rest that folded down, when my body was small and limber enough to bend as such.
We'd arrive home, take off our shoes and socks outside because of all the sand, drop our stuff in the laundry room and go to bed exhausted and elated, excited to do it all again next year.