Summer. When most people hear this word, they think of no school, warm weather and a carefree lifestyle. For me, this all remains true; however, one thing pops into my mind immediately: the Jersey Shore. More specifically, the annual week vacation my family takes during the week of the Fourth of July. We eagerly look forward to this trip every year. Over time, the week grew from just me, my younger brother, my mom and my stepdad, to a house full of ten plus people. Although I’m only 20-years-old, I think I have the story my kids will hear one day.
For me, I remember the summer vacation of 2020 like it was yesterday.
Now I’m from Jersey, only forty-five minutes from the first beach down the shore. So going to the beach doesn’t strike as something new for me. I go all the time. But something about this week that makes every other typical day trip not as special. The first time we did this vacation, I was in middle school. We rented a house in Lavallette right near the bay, and we did a whole lot of relaxing to say the least. We would ride our bikes to the beach, go out to dinner and spend our nights playing games outside.
The vacation played out like this for several years. Until my junior year of high school, when my mom allowed me to bring a few of my friends. This year, it started with just three of my friends. Then the next year, COVID-19 hit while I was a senior in high school. Yup, I had the title of a “covid senior” that everyone felt bad for.
To vacation or to not.
We thought we wouldn’t do our annual trip in 2020 because of the pandemic, but once summertime hit, places started to open up again and people started to go out more. So, we got a new house in Lavallette, and I invited my entire friend group (yes, we all got tested before we went).
I didn’t invite everyone just because I wanted to. I mean, of course I wanted to, but I felt like a deeper meaning clanged to it. We all lost everything that year. A spring sports season, prom, a grade-wide game called “assassin,” a normal graduation, any sort of social event and just simply enjoying our last few months of school as second-semester seniors. I think when we enter high school, we all look forward to that final semester senior year where it basically just turns into one free for all. For me and my friends, we spent these last few months of freedom spent at home in our rooms binging every Netflix show and playing virtual games over Zoom. Everything we looked forward to at this stage in our lives was ripped out from under us in seconds.
The Last Hurrah
I invited my entire friend group because finally, we all could do something together before we left for college in a short month. We coined it our “last hurrah.” That week turned out as some of the best days we lived that entire year. We felt as though we should cram everything we missed out on, and we lived every moment like we weren’t going to get it back. We reminisced on riding our bikes to the beach past midnight, blasting music like “Sweet Caroline,” for everyone to sing-along to and even pulling all-nighters to watch the sunrise over the ocean.
My family still does this vacation every year. For the past two summers, I invited a lot of the same friends I invited the summer of 2020. We always look forward to this week. And obviously, we still make it fun. But none of us believe any vacation will top the one we took that year. We always think back and talk about the memories we made that week and laugh about it all like we haven’t lived through it already.
Even though I can’t deny that COVID-19 sucks, and my friends and I lost all of the stereotypical things, we now have a new memory to look back on that no other grade can say they have. A memory we’ll hold on to forever, and one we will tell our kids down the road.