2011 Shore Issue: The Shore House

For more than 40 years, the Giuntas of West Chester have been going down the Shore together as a family. This time around, somebody crashed the party: our writer

Each night, by tradition, a different sibling is assigned to make dinner. One night during the week, the siblings all take Len and Ann to a restaurant to say thanks, though the restaurants don’t seem large enough anymore; this year there was some pre-Shore-week debate about whether to bend the rule and just do it at the house. On Tuesday morning, the guys always golf. It would be tempting fate if Len didn’t take the grandchildren to Springer’s in Stone Harbor for ice cream, to Hoy’s for little toys. In their younger days, the siblings would see the Greaseband play at Jack’s Place on Sunday nights. There was Dippy Don’s for ice cream, Shore Bites for cheese fries. Ann recalls the usual teenage trouble over the years: “Two trips to the emergency room, issues with boats…. One time we heard the kids plotting to sneak out at night, so my sister-in-law and I sat on the porch and just watched them come out the back window and said hello.”

This Sunday morning, the grandchildren are playing board games and trading Silly Bandz, launching repeated raids on a snack closet stocked with Swedish fish, pretzels, animal crackers. Andy, in charge of cooking, walks in with grocery bags containing 23 pounds of chicken and four pounds of lemons.

Eventually Len stretches his arms and announces, “Well, we have a plan of action. I’m going to take my wife for a walk, and then we’re going to the beach.”

On the crowded beach, giant holes are dug. Every hour or so, like a cuckoo clock, a guy comes off the street, clangs a large hand bell and yells, “Ice cream!” Unlike Stone Harbor and Wildwood, Avalon doesn’t let vendors on the beach, and an ice-cream man can stay in one spot for only 30 minutes. Still, it’s not playing fair. Every time the bell rings, the littlest kids think, Excellent, it’s ice-cream time again. Richie and Carol lead a gang over the sand path to the end of 15th Street, where a swarm surrounds the truck. As kids place their orders, the driver keeps a mental tab of how much each family owes. He lets it slip that he has a master’s degree in math. Different ice-cream men and women come by ringing bells, but late in the afternoon, the math guy comes back for another turn.

Owen, Carol’s seven-year-old son, looks up.

“We had that ice-cream man,” he says, as if describing a been-there-done-that conquest. Or maybe it’s just like knowing the bartender.

SUNDAY EVENING AFTER dinner, Edsel and Stacey and Matt and Kate are sitting around the table on the balcony porch, draining a bottle of merlot from oversized Lucite goblets. The sun is sinking over Avalon’s grid of streets. Matt is holding baby Gianna. It’s a perfect, breezy night, and the wine starts talking a little.

Matt and Edsel are both 30. Edsel is part of the Giunta family, but he was born to another.

“I came from a lower-income family. Broken family. Single mom, six kids,” Edsel says. He wasn’t planning to talk about this. “And Matt was the opposite—six kids—”

“Spoiled rotten,” Matt admits.

They played on the same Little All-American Football team: Matt was quarterback, Edsel the running back.