Atlantic City Steel Pier in the 60s

That summer I left my childhood behind.
Grandma arrived in her ancient Oldsmobile
giant sugar cookies nestled in tissue paper
in a Poughkeepsie bakery box
hidden beneath her suitcase in the back seat
unattainable until we submitted to her yanking the lice comb
through our unruly hair.

That summer I left my childhood behind.
Grandma announced that this summer
she would be taking me – the eldest – as her companion
for her annual trek to Atlantic City
I climbed into the July-sticky bench seat beside her
No seat belts, no air conditioning,
Just roll down the window for a bit of precious breeze.

That summer I left my childhood behind.
Grandma would have nothing to do with
the Four Seasons billboarded on the Steel Pier
my pre-teen self pleading to no avail
finally resigned that we were not there for frivolous amusement
or anything that cost money.

That summer I left my childhood behind.
Grandma said to stand sideways in the ocean waves
so the force of water could not break our legs
not convinced that showing a sliver of midriff was obscene
I abhorred my one-piece bathing suit with a ruffled top
to camouflage my budding breasts.

That summer I left my childhood behind.
Homesick, I wanted to make a long-distance call
from the phone in a closet in the lobby
but Grandma insisted it was time I grew up
as she had left Italy with a stranger at my age
in obedience to marry as her father wished.

That summer I left my childhood behind.
We argued about everything
Why did we have to stay in this musty two-story hotel
as dated as my Grandmother
when luxury modern hotels loomed beside us
with pools and music and laughter.

That summer I left my childhood behind.
Refusing to make the bed if the maid would make it for us
but Grandma opened the window
and threatened to jump if I didn’t do what she said
I knew nothing of mental illness
and dutifully dragged the sheets and spread over the pillows.

That summer I left my childhood behind.
My first vacation was finally over and
I carried our suitcases down to the street
climbed into the Oldsmobile
and wordlessly headed home
forever changed.


One Thought on “Atlantic City 1964”

  • Hauntingly beautiful, Jeeni! The glimpses into that summer are keenly felt! I am reminded of the custom of saving items or experiences for the right time or the need to be right regardless of the situation! Life is too short to accept the hurtful idiosyncrasies of those around us! Growing up is hard enough without those around us muddying the waters! I loved your voice in this piece! ❤️

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