For a while, when I was nine or so, my mother and I lived in Ocean Grove, New Jersey. My walk to school started two blocks from the beach, and ended at the school, which was at the town gates. Two blocks before the school, there was a mom-n-pop convenience store, the kind of place that sold kid-friendly snacks, and adult-friendly alcohol, and very little else.
Typically for such a place, there was a sign on the door limiting the number of kids to three at a time. Also typically, the prices were inflated. I didn't often have a chance to buy anything, but once in a while I'd go in with a friend, on the way home from school.
As a nine-year-old, living in such a tiny town – a town so conservative that even “heck” was considered an obscenity – was pretty cool. The beach at one end, the boardwalk that paralleled it, and all the old-fashioned stores, made it seem like a playground, or a movie set. I'm not sure about other kids, but I was too young to realize how dingy everything was, and how everything depended on summer tourists.
And no one likes summer tourists.
When I think about living there, in our 2nd floor walk-up with the tiny rooms, and funky old kitchen, and the sliver of ocean you could see if leaned forward in the bathtub, I tend to romanticize it, and in truth, if I had that apartment just for me, as a young adult, I'd have been pretty happy (and I'll have to use it in a story) but the reality is, it was a pretty bleak existence for my mother, and I think, at that point, even going back to Colorado was getting closer to home, than staying in New Jersey.
Show me the way to go home,
I'm tired and I wanna go to bed.
I had a little drink about an hour ago,
And it's gone right to my head.
Where-ever I may roam,
Oâ™r land or sea or foam.
You can always hear me singinâ™ this song,
Show me the way to go home!*
*”Show Me the Way to Go Home,” Irving King