In the '70's, summer meant the Shore House. Few New Jerseyans knew that we have our own Normandy Beach, a small, straightforward enclave along the ocean, below Bay Head and above Island Beach. Our Shore House had a deck out over the sands, the farthermost deck. When the lifeguards went home, we'd have the beach to ourselves-- our favorite time of each day. That was the time for bare feet on tide-packed sand, and shell explorations. That was a time of utter peace.
Planning a Shore House summer, one pictures golden days, forever sun, warm breezes. Somehow, not even fog nips into anticipation, let alone raindrops. But rain it did, and even cool down massively at night. We dreamed up odd-weather rituals, my husband and I, so that, the girls learned to look forward to rain.
The bakery was within walking distance. When I woke (always first) to what the British call "a mizzle of rain", I'd reach for rain gear and stride to that savory enclave. I'd return laden with hot just-baked cinnamon buns and pecan rolls, and newspapers we never read at home, rich in news that wasn't our news.
Werner (my Swiss husband) would light a fire in the living room fireplace before the girls toddled out of their rooms. The living room, on the uppermost floor of that intriguing house, was soon fragrant with spices and woodsmoke, and a soupcon of salt air - depending which way the sea wind was blowing.
Sometimes, on rainy mornings, the girls would stay in their "'jammies'" at the dining room (lower floor) table to drink their milk, savor their unlikely morning sweets, and draw and write poetry, for which we'd take dictation. One of Cath's earliest was 'written' sitting on the stairway up to the seaside living room: "Wicked witches and dark nights/monster shadows and moon light." Why the shore brought out the muse, we'd never know, but it became a norm.
Later on in the rainy days, --girls dressed by now, and wearing little yellow slickers like lobstermen, Paddington Bear boots on their small feet, we'd go to a nearby touristy beach store. Here waited new coloring books and puzzles of hokey scenes -- not the Renaissance masterpiece paintings those girls loved to put together as soon as they could reach the cardtables back at home. They were better than all the adults at finding that 'one missing piece'.
We'd settle the card table at the living room table nearest the sea windows. Outside was an unbelievable scene of rain splatting against the ocean. The girls wondered why it didn't flatten the waves and we didn't know the answer. Herb Alpert and Beach Boy records went onto on the portable record player, but not for dancing in cotton socks on sand-glistened floor. No, it was music to work puzzles by. Rule was, edge pieces first. The race was on, to see who could do the most edge.
Rainy day lunches were often blts, with Werner the chef. We didn't have 'fresh local' consciousness in those days. But there was a market for good young lettuce and Jersey tomoates, rather a long drive away and not for rainy (therefore crowded) ays. In that house, we discovered how irresistible bacon smells when there's salt tang on the air, a window or two (they opened by slanting up, so rain didn't come in) slightly ajar, sea mist trickling in.
After lunch was reading time for everyone -- beside the ever-stoked fire, lifting eyes from various pages to grey seas more formidable in rain.
If we had house guests, after-dinner time on rainy days turned into games. Charades vied with Triplets which battled with The Alphabet Game, sitting in a circle by the fire. Much laughter ensued as Wener emceed the Triplet game -- Tinkers to Evers to Chance; red, white and blue; gas, fire and water (so someone whould have to ask, "do you have gas?"... My Mother loved children's card games, always instituting a few rounds of Old Maid and Go Fish. I was terrible at cards, even those. I did bring my antique Authors game along, but the bearded old writers whose faces graced those cards alarmed the girls at their tender ages. There was always a Scrabble game set up at the Shore.
If the rain stopped, there was a unique treat - to go out on the prow-like deck toward the sea. The indoor fireplace glowed outside, as well. We'd put on sweatshirts with hoods, go out into the warm rain in our bare feet, tuck up alongside the house, to manage rainy night s'mores.
In the 70's, rain was simply rain. Not desperately needed relief from catastrophic drought. Not nor'easters and never hurricanes, in summer, all those decades ago. Rainy days when our girls were little meant new ways to have fun at the Shore.