Online DVD Rentals
Online DVD Rentals

May 31, 2012

Brought Out by the Shore

Hold on to the thread  
The currents will shift  

Glide me towards  
You know something's left

And we're all allowed 
To dream of the next

- Pearl Jam / Oceans

From the the age of 8 until about 18, my entire year revolved around the last week of July. My grandparents and some extended family took me down to Paradise City. Well, technically, we drove six eternal hours from southwestern PA to kitschy, crowded, overpriced Ocean City, MD. 

Every day was like awakening on Christmas morning, but this was a seven-day festival of doing, mostly with my good friend and cousin Jason, and the gifts never quit. We had our fill of go-carts, wave runners, water slides, and boardwalk prattle. Yet the best moments occurred during times between the scheduled touristy amusement. I wouldn’t call it waiting, but more like joy.

We outran hundreds if not thousands of breaking waves, hordes of gremlins lunging after us and withering into the sand. The building we stayed in featured a pool and parking garage for skateboarding. It had elevators, 11 stories of open balcony with close proximity to soarable items like grapes and balsa wood airplanes. We sat on the boardwalk, crafting (mostly) harmless pranks of anonymity. 

Our late teenage years at the shore where definitely a let down from all the castle building, boogie boarding, wiffle balling, sand crab catching bliss of our younger years. Jason and I became concerned with the things that young adults should be doing, too busy and mature for simple fun. 

What compelled us to move beyond the wonder of child hood and early adolescence? Was it the new responsibilities and freedoms? Too little sleep? Certainly, there’s something beneficial about boundaries and your grandparents vacation fund to help you through the week. 

One mistake was trying to recapture the same joy and feelings of the old days.Vacation fun became manufactured, more in the atmosphere and reflection on the past.  C.S. Lewis wrote that you have to be surprised by joy. Joy is never found by directly searching for it, but rather happens while doing other things. And that's exactly how pure, remembered-like-it-was-yesterday joy came upon us as children.

These days, a different set of my extended family makes a yearly visit to the east coast, just north of Ocean City MD. I stand, watching my children playing with their cousins. I reflect on the past as I witness real -time joy unfolding all around me. I'm thankful for the chance to genuinely do the simple and fun horseplay that I've been after all along.

The beauty and enormity and power of the shore make me feel small and humble.  Yet at the same time, with the land behind me sloping down to the sea, to the left and right the coast converging upon me, and the ocean rising up and out all the way to the sky in front of me, my place on the waters edge appears to be at the center of a universe.

Joy by reflection and surprise. A sense of smallness and importance. Both perspectives are true, I think, brought out by the shore.


Anonymous said...

Bob - What a great post. You have captured well how difficult it is to hold on to past things when we try to make them be the same over and over again. When we let the past be what it was and look forward to now with anticipation and expectation, there's the joy we were looking for. I'm so glad you linked up your beach experiences with our High Calling Writing project.

Anonymous said...

Last summer I made a list of simple joys that I hoped my kids could experience. Then a bunch of stuff went haywire and I wasn't able to initiate and direct them to these simple joys like I'd hoped. In the middle of my troubles, God provided unexpected avenues for them to experience many of the things I had written down...and some more that I hadn't even thought of. Grace. I love the idea of "Surprised by Joy" and the picture of you and your friend in the raw experience of a childhood summer.

Bob Gorinski said...

Thanks so much Charity.

And ...Message...very cool, your idea of connecting that joy to grace!

Thanks for reading!

Jennifer @ said...

Yes, vacation fun can be manufactured,which is just plain stressful. I've been on vacations where we've had to get up at the crack of dawn, race from one sight to another, and fall in a heap at the end of the day. And it just all felt like work to me.

Our favorite vacation spot is Up North, on a little lake in Minnesota. We love fishing, napping, throwing rocks in the lake. We love being lazy.

Really glad you've linked up to the High Calling with your post, Bob. You're a fantastic writer.

Deidra said...

(Listening to Pearl Jam as I type this.)

I am a lover of oceans. I could spend an entire day just looking out across the vast expanse of sky. When our children were little, I'd pack the cooler full of Jell-O jigglers, grapes, Kool-ade, and peanut butter sandwiches and off we'd go. I remember the ice cold water at the beginning of those New England summers. My children loved every minute, and those are some of the best memories of my parenting journey with them.

Thanks so much for linking up to the community writing project at

Bob Gorinski said...

Thanks for stopping by Deidra!

And yes, Jennifer. Six or eight hours in the sand and surf, broken up by a lunch time nap is so much more appealing than, say, Disney.

I imagine that Disney can be done at a comfortable, enjoyable pace. But I've also heard many stories where hectic agendas seem to take over the week.

Sam Van Eman said...

Hey, great to see this featured in today's post at And I'm glad you parent like you do, Bob--lots of being surprised by joy, like when you take your kids to the bike shop on a super rainy day.