I would steal a final glance into condo 704 at the end of each summer. As my parents rolled the final suitcase out the door, I became aware that I would have to live through another fall, winter, and spring, another full school year, another Christmas, New Year’s, and birthday before I could walk through the door again. For through that door, was where my heart truly belonged.
It’s a place I’ve known longer than my sister, having first been introduced two months after my birth. It’s a place where I spent 23 years of my life learning about the world, thinking about the person I wanted to be late at night when everyone else was asleep. I slept in the same spot, the bed closest to the wall, the spot closest to the lamp, every time. Except for the times my grandparents and cousins were in attendance, 11 people making do with beds on floors and one bathroom for use.
By the second night, each time without fail, the sheets would be lined in a thin layer of sand. Despite the countless nights spent in the same bed, in the same spot, I never knew which pillow was the right mix of softness and support, a decision I always told myself I would be able to make the next time. The 1970s mirror closet doors were replaced with generic white shutters, all except for the ones in the biggest room, the very doors I watched myself grow up in each summer.
After long days on the beach, with stomachs full of ice cream and eyes heavy with satisfied exhaustion, a group of friends lulled us to sleep with the promise that they’d be there for us, like they’d been there before. My alarm clock from the past year was replaced with the National Anthem streaming in from the boardwalk – a signal that I had once again slept in too late and would soon be walking down to the beach alone if I didn’t get up.
It’s a place where we would brave the cold blast from the communal foot shower because Grandma was worried sand might clog the shower drain. Where everyone knew who was responsible for the watermarks on the glass door by not wiping them away after the last shower. A place where carts were never allowed on the carpet but an accidental ironing incident will forever mark the ground. It saw my family bundled in winter jackets, walk-in during the off-season, and realize the bathroom had been renovated in secret. A feat I admired as I heard the excitement pour out of both my parents, my mom in disbelief on the phone with my Grandma as my dad marveled at how the toilet fit for a dollhouse had been replaced with a throne.
The top drawer of the taller dresser in the bigger room held the same Niall Horan poster my sister and I would display each visit. As we transitioned through schools, jobs, friends, and styles, Niall remained our guardian angel – another representation of happiness in a place where the happiness quota was already full. The furniture held souvenirs of years gone by, tickets for discounted tramcar rides, and two dollars off at balloon darts. The paper books gave away to plastic cards, but the gift of new tickets from Grandpa, always given early in the season before we knew which ride would become our favorite, never faded in excitement.
Every English teacher of mine become a subject expert on this place because incorporating it into essays was the only way to feel the warm sunshine during a cold New England winter. The smell of the lobby became my drug; inhaling as deep as I could without being noticed each time I passed through. I hesitated to wash my clothes for days after leaving, dreading the loss of the clean, sea air that had seeped in. When the elevators flooded, as they did too often for comfort, the stairs to the 7th floor became our gym. A climb that burned by the 5th flight but rewarded you with views of the Atlantic when you reached the top.
It’s a place I would have never known without Grandpa. After late nights twisting around the clock fueled by youth and reckless abandon, he shared the magic with his wife, his kids, his grandchildren. His appreciation for the joy it created was the motivator for keeping it past intention. The love he had for his family was built into the walls, setting the tone for an unforgettable fifty years of experience. A place that gives me a sense of peace knowing that it and my Grandpa now exist together within the same place of my heart, a reunion that can never be interrupted.
It’s a place where thank you will never be strong enough. A place that is a piece of me now, and forever. A place that taught me the true meaning of home.
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