I had the dream again. It happens every year. Some of you may not have recurring dreams. I’m sure many doubt their existence. I can tell you that they are real. I learned long ago that I am powerless to stop it from happening. No matter how aware I am of this annual occurrence, I am always left blindsided by its arrival.
It’s 1994. I’m 12. My brother is 8. My parents are in their late 30’s. I don’t know why it has to be this way or why I know it to be the case, I just know that it’s 1994. We are in the Outer Banks in Buxton, NC. If you’ve been down there, you know that this is where you can find the iconic lighthouse and Diamond Shoals. We always stayed in this place called Lighthouse View over the 4th of July. We rented a 2 bedroom condo on the third floor. From our balcony, you can see the beach with the pool located in between the beach and the building.
The pool was social epicenter of the resort for kids like me. Our parents would reserve the same week every year and most others would do the same. This meant that we had friends at the pool that we saw for one week every year. There were probably a dozen of us pale northern kids that would meet up with the intent of culturally appropriating that beach lifestyle for one midsummer holiday week every year. They’re all in the pool this time. It’s on.
We catch up on the last year. I make up some subtle lies that paint me as anything but the chubby and forgettable rising 7th grader that I am back home. They probably do the same. None of it matters now. We mainly talk about the rough winter that we thought we would never escape. How the thoughts of this day comforted all of us while living through another February filled with wet boots and cold temperatures. The ultimate victory lap we’ve earned from vanquishing another winter lies on the other side of that boardwalk.
We run down that boardwalk like an invading army. I imagine my momentum carrying me all the way to the water where I’ll use all of the force I can gather in my prepubescent pudgy body to drop a shoulder into that first crashing wave; except there is no wave. The sand is covered in several inches of snow. The ocean is a sheet of ice that looks like Lake Erie at this very moment. We will never outrun winter.
I wake up, get dressed, clean off the cars, and make sure my own 12 year old is ready for school. I realize that I’ve reached that part of the winter where I’ve given up hope.
I love Erie. Idiotville is an ongoing labor of love to a city that has molded our lives. That said, our winters suck. Since early November, we have all been enduring snow and freezing temperatures. Cracked skin and wet socks. No sun and hazardous driving conditions. It’s now March. We’re tired of this lifestyle. We’re ready to move on from the winter.
These are the hardest days of the year for us. Those carefree summer days filled with dares of swimming to the breakers, the distinctive smell of the Whacky Shack, and a 10000 calorie lunch at Sara’s seem like a distant memory of the time you watched someone else’s home movies. Still, the logical part of all of us knows that the earth’s axis is tilting Erie closer to the sun.
Walk through the mall. You’ll see sweaters, boots, jackets, and flannels at a steep discount. The Pittsburgh Pirates and Cleveland Indians may have a bunch of guys with big numbers wearing practice uniforms right now, but they’re down south preparing for a long summer spent a short drive away. Have any of you driven past Creamland lately? The number on that countdown sign is really starting to shrink.
We are only weeks away from that first oasis. You know, those few days in March where the sun peeks out and the temperature climbs into the 60’s. That’s one of my favorite times of the year. Kids fill parks, every basketball hoop has a pickup game, and families are wandering the streets with big smiles and no place to go simply because they can. It always ends with a thunderstorm and a week of snow, but at least we get a preview of the summer to come.
Those days spent on the golf course with a cold beer in the cup holder? The times you cool off in the pool only to get out and fire up the grill? The serenity that comes with a scenic hike with a perfect temperature? It’s all coming, and it’s earned right now.
I see this all as a nice reminder, but it doesn’t change the current situation. It’s cold. The extended forecast tells me to expect more cold for the foreseeable future. So I continue to grind. That’s all we can do. We would like for winter to come and go on a set schedule, but we’re left to wait on a vague idea of winter’s timeline. I’m going to do my best to follow my own advice. Remain positive. Enjoy the fact that it’s all ahead of us. I hope it works this time. The problem is that I know a part of me will always be that 12-year-old boy sprinting for that ocean. How will I handle the disappointment?