The Relationship With Your Long-Term Shore Landlord Is … Special

We only see Chuck and Jane a couple of weeks a year. But we've been doing that for a lot of years.

The first time, we never dreamed it would last this long.

Frankly, yours was just another duplex, one in a long line of joints we’d rented down the Shore. You were a nice enough couple. (I thought you were old then.) We were a big, sprawling family: Dad, our patriarch; four kids and their spouses; a growing crew of offspring; a stray aunt and cousin; and assorted other friends and relations. All we were really looking for was a fridge, a couple of bathrooms and a bunch of beds. We tried you out. Something about you worked. Maybe it was the layout; maybe it was the location. Maybe it was the fact that you had the exact same kitchen tile as our patriarch did. We settled in, made ourselves at home, got sand in your carpet and ramen noodles under your dining room table. It was two weeks of bliss.

The next year, we came back.

We stuck our boogie boards and bikes in your garage. We hung our laundry on your lines. We waved to you from our porch, exchanged pleasantries, left our condiments in your fridge when we departed. We did the same the next year. And the next. Oh, from time to time we talked about cheating on you. About how we really could use one more bedroom (or maybe two). About that damned garbage disposal. (You could clog it with lettuce!) About how it would be more convenient to be closer to the boardwalk, now that our kids were old enough to go on the rides. But somehow, five years turned into 10, and 10 into 15, and here we still were, breaking your wineglasses, clogging your toilets, grinding sand ever deeper into those carpets, until finally we were leaving our beach chairs in the garage until next summer, knowing that this was real — that we’d be back.

You watched our kids grow up — shoot up, really, since you only saw them for two weeks every year. In leaps and bounds they turned from toddlers to adolescents to preteens to teens to … no longer sure bets, busy as they were with preseason sports and college backpacking orientations and choir trips overseas, over that sea we swam in for hours and hours.

You saw the aunt and the patriarch move ever more slowly up and down the stairs, until the aunt didn’t come anymore, and we explained that she was gone. We were staying here, the kids and the offspring and the cousin, when we got word the patriarch had died, back home. He’d insisted we not keep him company there in the hospital — insisted, with almost his last breath, that we keep this yearly appointment, the rendezvous he’d started and maintained and paid for, a way to draw us all back together from wherever we were, without fail.

You know, now, that our kids are grown. Last year, one spent her honeymoon here with us — with you! That was an anomaly, though. You realize we’re less faithful. Schedules are more complicated. Those kids have scattered. Some of us only make it for a weekend. This year, some of us didn’t make it at all. Who knows what next year will bring? Life is uncertain. We learned that, coming here. Some years we get nothing but sunshine. Sometimes, we get rain.

There won’t be any sign of us left here when the time comes for us to move on (except for those forgotten condiments). We’re transitory. We’ve only ever been two out of your 52 weeks. Granted, we were pretty trouble-free as tenants go. But you’ve been great landlords, too. You’ve been part of our lives, as regular as Christmas and Thanksgiving. We saw your kids grow, too — and your grandkids. We’re all of us getting slower up those stairs.

So hey, thanks for all the great memories. We broke another two wineglasses. (What can I say? A particularly intense Scrabble night.) You left us a bottle of pinot. We left you a bottle of balsamic vinegar. Again.

Twenty years now, your kitchen cabinets have been our kitchen cabinets. Your dryer lint has been our dryer lint. Your ice machine has been our ice machine (and a lame-ass one it is). We love the new carpet, but we’re worried it will show the dirt. Frankly, we liked the old sofa better. But it’s not our house.

Except that it is. Summer after summer, it’s been where we come together again under one roof, not just for one meal like at holidays, but for long, slow stretches of sunny days bright as pearls, as childhood, as our memories.

We can’t get the wine stains out of the tablecloth. Sorry!

God willing, see you next year.