Rockaway, Far Away

The best thing in the world–one of them, anyway–is to feel sand beneath your bare toes when you walk on a sidewalk.

That’s what I thought when I was a kid visiting my cousins in Rockaway in Queens, New York.

They lived in a 2-story gray house tucked behind another house a block and a half from the water. The air smelled sharp, of brine from the ocean, and popcorn and hot dogs from the boardwalk.

You could walk down the block and go straight from concrete to the fine, warm sand of a Long Island beach. Turn left, and you’d be on the splintery boardwalk wood. I must’ve been small, because I could never see the top of the vendors’ carts, only the sides. I got only a glimpse of the pink cotton candy in white paper cones and the hot dogs impaled on spikes. The open doors of the arcades and other attractions were off limits.

I must’ve been very small.

When I told my parents we should move there, they laughed. They each came from the City–Mom from Brooklyn and Dad from the Bronx. To them, suburbia meant moving on up. To me, it meant deadly, deadly boredom.

At night, the pink and yellow boardwalk lights lit up the sky. I heard music against the background of the gentle surf.

Decades later, when I lived in Northern California, the feeling of Rockaway came back to me when I walked along the beach in Santa Cruz and entered the dark arcade with its flashing neon and ringing bells. It wasn’t a feeling of remembrance, though. Just a feeling of loss.

Why are children so powerless?

My cousins didn’t live in Rockaway too long. My older cousin went to live in Japan. My other cousin, an accomplished accordianist–we used to be so close–I’m not sure where he is. Somewhere playing his music, I hope.

My Rockaway is gone. All the little single-family houses were knocked down to build high-rise apartments. At least, that’s what I heard. I’m not going back.

As long as I don’t go back to find out, the sand will still be warm beneath my toes.

By S.J. Driscoll

10 thoughts on “Rockaway, Far Away

  1. Lynn Kelley

    Sally, you’re an awesome writer. I was right there with you in Rockaway. Amazing memories from your childhood viewpoint. And I love that you remember how it smelled. I guess it’s true that the sense of smell is one of the strongest senses, and one that we often forget to add to our stories. Thanks! This post made me smile.

  2. Sheila Seabrook

    I grew up on the prairies in Canada and I’m fascinated by all the other beautiful places in the world. Thanks for the lovely description of Rockaway. This is definitely a memory worth keeping. 🙂

  3. coleen patrick

    That’s a great memory–I am smiling!! It reminded me of how much I loved going to Seaside Heights on the Jersey shore (pre-Snookie!). The sand, the boardwalk, the games–it was all so much fun. I probably wanted to live there too 🙂

  4. Karen McFarland

    What a beautiful memory Sally!

    I’ve never been to the boardwalk on the Eastern shore. My parents were from there, but I’m a native of the Southern California coast. Although I do love Santa Cruz and I’m familiar with it’s boardwalk and pier. It’s gorgeous there!

    I too love the feel of sand between my toes. Thank you for sharing this! 🙂

    1. SJ Driscoll

      Thanks, Karen! I lived in Maryland a long time but never got to the Eastern Shore. I grew up on the Long Island beaches. They’re so different from the California coast, north or south. The first time I stepped into the Pacific, I screamed–cold! Then years later I stepped into the Gulf for the first time, and screamed again–hot! Long Island was ju-u-ust right.

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