Even amid a pandemic, summer still tastes sweet
Amy McIntyre Kramer | Seven Mile Satellite
Submitted photos | Amy McIntyre Kramer
Tell me what’s better than eating ice cream with cousins at the shore? Even if I didn’t have the photo — circa 2003 — to prove it, the memory of my three kids sandwiched in among my brothers’ three kids at his house on 15th Street is filed away in my memory under “Ultimate Happy Times.”
It’s one of those photos I can look at for 10 minutes straight — and often — because every time I see it, I notice something different. Their skin has already turned golden. Every one of them looks content. Our little Natalie is there on the right, each one of her hands and arms tangled up in a cousins’ on either side of her. She was two years old at the time and as a result of her Down syndrome, she wouldn’t walk for another year. I never had to worry though because once I stepped foot in my brother’s house she was carried off, tended to and doted on, like she was the Queen of Sheba.
On this particular night, Natalie had just finished her kid-size cup of vanilla soft serve — which meant I could now have a camera in my hands — as the others licked and chomped away.
Natalie loved closeness more than ice cream — children with Down syndrome are like that. They love hugs. She would take being tangled up over the use of her hands any day. If she had an itch on her nose, no worries, they’d scratch it for her.
My kids were lucky enough to experience the closeness and camaraderie of cousins on both sides of their family when they visited the seashore as kids. Wiffle ball games on the beach lasted hours. After which, they’d paint seashells in every color of the rainbow, lining them up to dry in front of their grandparent’s house by the dozens. Many nights were capped off with sleepovers on living room floors when there weren’t enough beds to go around, chatter and chuckles carrying on well into the night.
All of the couches that the twenty-six cousins combined used to pile up on have been replaced, as the years have chugged on and more than half of them are nearly — or over — six feet tall. Many have full-time “real” jobs now, and some even have children of their own. But the spirit and presence of all of them remains across Seven Mile Island, and for a lucky handful, their bodies remain too.
This coming July 4th weekend, the little guy in green in the photo will be behind the scenes with dogged determination at Jay’s On Third in Stone Harbor, helping to put together delectable meals for those fortunate enough to be on the receiving end.
The kooky-faced cutie on the far left will be hammering away at the Whitebrier in Avalon, making sure he ties up all the loose ends in getting his job done. And with any luck, each of them will spot a familiar “cousin face” as they’re running this way and that. Only this year, they’ll have to work a little harder at doing it.
COVID-19 masks and curbside pickups make things difficult, but as Natalie always reminds us, there’s a bright side to everything.
Summer 2020 is different everywhere, and the seashore is no exception. But the sun is still out, the sand is still warm, the water is clear and inviting. The beautiful beaches are open, restaurants are ready, shops are hoping against hope that you’re coming in.
Natalie has a hard time with COVID-19 masks. She doesn’t even quite understand what the whole thing is all about. But despite that, there she is with her catch phrases: “It’s cool.” “It’s alright.” “It won’t be long.”
So, grab a book, pack a cooler and head to the beach. Throw down a towel, open up a chair, play a game with the kids. Who knows what Fall will bring, and if we take a page out of Natalie’s book, we’ll realize we’ve got to enjoy summer while it lasts.
Don’t forget your mask and remember you can always bring the ice cream home. Sundae Best, Springer’s and all the others: They’re waiting for you. The pizza is perfect, the seafood is scrumptious and there’s more than one way to enjoy it all. Spread it out on your deck, or maybe you’ll be lucky enough to get a spot at one of the restaurant’s sidewalk tables. And if that’s the case and you see my son or my nephew while you’re there, tell them I say hello!