Always

Always, we would go. Every year. The third week of July. That is when New York was the hottest, he said. It’s too hot and humid, so we go to Old Orchard Beach then.

Always, Old Orchard Beach, Maine. It took hours and hours to get there by car. It seemed like an eternity of rest stops and mountains covered in trees. And then, we’d pull through the right exit, and slowly, we’d pull into a town. Streets. Houses. And then, we’d pull around a corner – and there it was, the pier. The beach. The little amusement park that started right next to the pier and ran a little ways down the beach. We’d turn along the road by the amusement park, pass it, a hotel or two, and there was our motel, our home for the week.

Always, the same motel, the same week. He made Mama wait by the computer for midnight on New Year’s Eve, just to make sure they got the room he wanted, when he wanted it. It was very competitive, despite being so rustic and not particularly fancy. However, it had a pool and Jacuzzi, and was directly in front of the beach. Oh, how I loved the smell of sea salt when I woke up the mornings we had there. At night, we’d go to the little shop next door. They had an assortment of ice cream, and Mama would always get me scoops of what I wanted. I’d tried mint chocolate chip for the first time at that shop. I’d often get that flavor after that.

I enjoyed the amusement park quite a bit. It had a water slide, and rides that spun you around and upside down. After the boat that would go back and forth, back and forth, I learned that I must sit down for a bit, lest I risk fainting. I always made sure to go on the Ferris wheel at sunset. The park and the beach looked so beautiful when the colors of the sunset dripped so elegantly onto its surfaces.

There were silly games to play around the park, the kind you find at the local carnival. Throwing down a hammer to test your strength. Squirting water to make a balloon pop – I won that often. All the toys and prizes I would win. There was also a card reader, right across from the Ferris wheel. We only went the once.

The park had an arcade, where I would often aim for the games that’d give me the most tickets. I didn’t want to leave the trip empty handed. Mama would join in and help me earn tickets. She’d even be sure to make me sit with a game that was just for fun, not for tickets. At the end of one trip, I got a rotating disco ball, with colorful lights. At another, a gumball machine. Both really liven up my room.

Always, he loved this trip. His family did it for years when he was a kid, and he brought his sons when they were young. They’d still come up whenever they could. I recall their drunken slurs in the middle of the night. Like father, like son.

Always, he’d make a reservation for Mama, me, and him to go to this fancy restaurant. It ran along the beach, which looked beautiful bathed in moonlight. Norah Jones seems to always play softly in the background in places like this, with wind gliding the sand peacefully along the beach and the waves crashing into themselves nearby. It was a beautiful place to be for dinner. I’d always be sure to get this one dessert – butterscotch ice cream in a crepe, with a drizzle of butterscotch syrup and a sprinkle of nuts. Not a big fan of nuts, but the dish was too delicious to pass up.

Always, he would have us eat breakfast at this little dinner just before we headed home. Twice, I managed to get the cinnamon bun with the cream cheese frosting without realizing it. I despised that icing. It made breakfast rather unpleasant both times.

Always, he kept a favorite picture from one of our trips. Mama and him. He was pushing her away, acting like the child as he always did. Mama was just standing there, with a beer in her hand. She was mid-laugh, open-mouthed grin strewn across her face.

Always, when I was younger, I found it rather funny, and fitting, as he often pushed my mother away.

Nowadays, it is still quite fitting for their relationship during those days, but instead of laughter, I feel sadness.

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Brenna Renée Prather

Costume Designer. Writer. Artist.

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