Amy McIntyre Kramer | Seven Mile Satellite
Originally published 9 July 2019
We were driving down First Avenue, my Uncle Tom behind the wheel of his cavernous, ’60s era sedan and me in the back seat, red leather stretching long on either side of my five-year-old frame. He was part of the search party that had fanned out in all directions after I’d wandered away from my family’s little white cottage on 30th Street.
I don’t remember how far I’d gotten, just that I was mixed up in a sea of houses. And I was scared. I longed to see something familiar. Maybe the huge ball field near the tennis courts or one of the playgrounds that we frequented on an almost-daily basis.
I’d even take refuge in a store. If only I could find that big street where Hoy’s 5 & 10 would be so easy to spot with its giant, red sign. There, I could head straight to the sky-high wire bin of blown-up beach balls. Perhaps that would put a smile on my face — or maybe the seashells. I could find the trinket aisle and see how many smooth, shiny new ones had arrived.
But there were no bright lights in sight, just house upon house, all looking the same to five-year-old me. So, I kept walking.
And then, I saw him, my Uncle Tom in his car, the one that glided down the street as if on air. His elbow was out the window, his head turning this way and that. As soon as he spotted me, the brakes went on.
“Aim! There you are! Hop on in. We need to get you home,” he called.
I slid onto the back seat, inched over to where his familiar face could reassure me in the rearview mirror. There, I saw his signature smile, the one that made him one of my favorites.
He pulled the smooth ride onto the road and we set out for home. I saw the “Little Church” at 25th Street, and then I saw Mr. Wade’s house, my dad’s friend, and that meant we were getting warm.
As we turned the corner onto 30th Street I was filled with sheer relief. The Fitzmyers’ “mansion” was the first thing I saw, the trademark ball on top of the cone-shaped roof making my stomach do a happy flip-flop. And there, across the street, was our little place. I was never so happy to see it.
Sometimes I think about that day when I’m driving through Avalon, scared as I was that nothing looked familiar. I imagine that’s how some people feel about Avalon today. There’s evidence of it when you overhear someone at the yoga studio say, “It’s not the same anymore, it’s just changed so much.”
Of course, it’s changed. Elaborate, three-story architectural wonders are replacing cottages and duplexes with nary an end in sight. But that’s progress. And the new restaurants and shops that pop up every summer, providing opportunities for those who are willing to take the chance: progress again.
There’s also plenty that’s still the same.
I can still walk into Hoy’s 5 & 10 on Dune Drive and show my kids where the ball bin is and where the seashells shine. I can pull my ticket at Kohler’s Bakery early on a Sunday morning and bring home cream donuts, sugar “bump” cookies and sticky buns that taste exactly the same as they did when I was five. I — or more likely my kids — can still shoot hoops at Community Hall on a rainy day, the same exact community center where the youngest of the seven of us, Lynne, was runner-up in the 1980 Little Miss Avalon contest — yes, we thought she got robbed.
And better still, the place where I had my very first job, the Whitebrier Restaurant at 20th Street and the beach, is still here, too. It may have moved from the beach block to closer to the bay, but who’s counting.
If we look around, there’s enough to see and feel that’s familiar. Just ask my kids.
Occasionally, I’ll take a detour down 30th Street.
“What are we doing?” I’ll hear from the back seat.
The answer is obvious.
“We’re driving down 30th,” I’ll hear another one say, matter-of-factly. “So Mom can say ‘Look, our little house at 131! It’s not our’s anymore, but it’s still there! And so is the Fitzmyer’s place!”’
Amy McIntyre Kramer is a writer for the Seven Mile Satellite. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.