Goodbye My Little Piece of Paradise

I am writing about something that admittedly has nothing to do with food, which as my readers know is the main focus of my musings, but has molded my life thus far and has made me who I am.  While I am aware that what I am writing may be cheesy, it is an ode to the end of an era and I am not ashamed. To be honest, there is something cold and unfeeling that comes with knowing that a place that held most of your cherished memories, a place where friends were family and unspoken bond was held by anyone that lived nearby, has become a soulless symbol of destruction. I suppose that comes with being the unlucky victim of a hurricane.

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It is sad that I can call myself one of the fortunate ones, most of my friends’ homes burned to the ground in the span of a few hours.  It took almost 100 years to build our beloved beach community and one unforgiving gas fire to devastate the lives of generations of families.  We were a community rich in a history that shaped our lives and our hearts. Most of us had modest homes that had been built by a grandfather or great-grandfather with his own two hands and passed down through the years.   To the residents of the Camp Osborn/ Normandy Beach area, a home was more like an extension of yourself; it was a piece of your heart. It was a place where you built your life, forged bonds, and made priceless memories; a place where couples started their journey together and planned for the future. Our community had survived countless hurricanes, tropical storms, and tidal waves.  None of us could even fathom the devastation that one storm, Sandy, could have caused.

For years we were barely a blip on the map, a place so small you had to provide nearby  landmarks to get even a glimpse of recognition.  We began as a place built on the spirit of hard work and hope and almost overnight became a place known for destruction. For months I watched people stop in front of my house to take a picture. I looked on as people pointed and stared and listened to the comments about the tattered clothes hanging in my room; clothes that eventually were stolen.    I cannot even begin to describe the feeling you get from knowing that a place that used to be full of life has become a dehumanized image of  Hurricane Sandy.  After months of constant reminders of what has been lost and homes that still lie in ruin it is sadly a feeling that we have all come to live with.  While I know that the clearing process is a positive step forward  I can’t help but a mourn for the kitchen that will never again bring the smell of love, the family room that will never again hear the sound of laughter, and the home that will never again be my heaven on earth.

As I sit here bleary eyed with bittersweet salty tears streaming down my face, I can’t help but reflect on all the amazing memories that I have in a house smaller than most people’s bedrooms. My room was barely big enough for my twin sized bed and didn’t even exist before my Dad converted our screened in porch. You could hear someone breathing in the room over, or cooking breakfast in the kitchen. My occasional hung-over mornings were interrupted by my father calling “oh is this too loud” from the other side of the house or a weed-wacker whirring. I could even hear my neighbor’s phone ringing next door. Though my beloved home was small in size it was big on heart. It was a place that was always filled with love and laughter, where strangers felt like friends and everyone was welcome. To say that it had a few good years on it was an understatement. It was there for my blossoming youth and my mischievous teen years, my first drink, my first love, and my first heartbreak. It survived parties, arguments, late nights, and early mornings. While it only took one wave to shatter my home, the memory of the place that I love will always live on. I owe it my fondest memories, my favorite moments, and lifelong friends that will  always be my family. Here’s to you my little Peach Hut, you had one  hell of a run.

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Copyright © 2013 Christine Van Arsdalen. All Rights Reserved

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3 responses to “Goodbye My Little Piece of Paradise

  1. I am very sorry for you and your family to hear this but hope with it’s demolition, forward momentum can finally be established.
    You write very movingly of your beach life and all it has meant to you. Aside from the very obvious loss of home/belongings and what will be rebuilt or allowed, the loss to your community is incalculable.
    At least your exposed closet will no longer be a source of endless looping photographs on the web.

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