By Jenna Miele
Photography by Kelly C. Travis

Those of you who have visited LBI during the off-season can agree on the odd look and feel of the island. The sand is cool, the population dwindles significantly, and the skies look like they have been painted gray by a melancholy artist who’s trying to get over a break-up. Nonetheless, it’s still Long Beach Island and I still love every square inch of it.

When my parents ask, “Wanna go to the beach for the day and check on Pop’s house?” my eyebrows raise and a sly smile spreads across my face. At this point, my mom and dad should know – of course I want to spend the day at the beach, even if it’s January. As soon as we drive onto the island, a wave of memories washes over me: car rides to CVS to get my brother’s medicine for his unseasonably horrible cold; the bike ride I took with my father to the bridge; get-togethers at my neighbor’s beautiful home; daily bike rides to Bay Village; and staying up late every night with all the windows open, listening to the waves lap against the shore until I drift off into a deep slumber. Both recent and years-old recollections conjure up so much excitement for the approaching summer that I don’t even mind the sad skies of the off-season.

I always fall asleep once for at least fifteen minutes but wake up thirty seconds before our car passes the big Wawa on Route 72. Coincidence? Maybe. Stopping at Wawa has become a tradition for my family and a hoagie with peach iced tea has become mine. The rest of the drive home is quick, unfortunately, and once we’re home I start daydreaming about hot days at the beach, pedaling my cruiser all the way to Bay Village, and hanging out with the seagulls at the basketball courts.

I’ll admit there are days at school when I stare out the window at the dreary suburban skies and picture everything being painted over by rays of sun, vibrant blues, and warm sand. Winter makes me long for the three months where it’s socially acceptable to walk around LBI in a bikini top, jean shorts, and bare feet. I miss the constant blue skies spotted with various shaped clouds, my healthy tan skin and intensified freckles, and the lack of necessity to wear any makeup at all (thank you, sun!).

I miss the freedom I have on the island, my parents nodding approval as I yell, “I’m going for a bike ride! Check in with you guys in twenty minutes! BYE!” while running out the front door. The long walks and bike rides with my neighboring-street friends to Skipper Dipper at eight o’clock at night, standing in line for thirty-five minutes, fumbling with twelve punch cards, and then going back to their house for several rounds of “Cards Against Humanity.” All the while, my parents’ minds are at ease knowing that LBI is taking care of their youngest who is out and about roaming around the island with her sister and friends.

This upcoming summer is bound to be the best one yet. It’s my last one before I have to start worrying about college stuff. Next year, the summer of 2016, is going to be chock full of store runs for sixty-nine cent boxes of mac and cheese and an abundance of Ramen noodles, shopping for bed risers and body pillows, and hour-long soirees for all things college. But this summer, the summer of 2015, is going to be legendary. I’ll haul my friends down to LBI and take them to the Chicken or the Egg on Wednesdays, wait with them in the perpetually long but worthwhile line at Skipper Dipper, and indulge in multiple sunsets with them on the bay side of the island.

I’m determined to spend every possible second at the shore – weekends with the whole thirty-six member family, plus my own family’s vacation – soaking up those imperative vitamins and basking in the pure happiness that is Long Beach Island!

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