Being there for your kid’s first swim strokes. A family-and-friends reunion. A perfect afternoon on a calm sea.
Those are just a few of the greatest hits of Summer 2019, as told by seaside revelers Sunday on the last unofficial weekend of the beach season. These folks all spent the day at Ocean City, but their stories could have come from any Jersey Shore town — those magic memories made on a late summer’s day that can last a lifetime.
What were the best memories for the Usner family of West Chester?
“This — riding on the boardwalk as a family,” said Amy Usner, 41, a car sales manager, whose 2-year-old, Lauren, was in the bicycle child seat behind her. Her husband, Terry, 48, a meat-packing plant supervisor, was on a bike rigged with a cart towing daughter Bryn, 3.
Some of Amy’s own best childhood memories involved beach time and biking with family, and Ocean City has played prominently in her and Terry’s lives.
“We got engaged here,” Terry said. And the couple held the gender-reveal festivities down the Shore when they informed family and friends they were having girl babies.
Biking and the beach — any beach — is Meredith Green’s best summer memory. The 27-year-old restaurant manager from Harrisburg loves the sun season so much that her 3-year-old daughter is named August.
Daughter Royal, 4, made a pretty big memory herself this summer. "My daughter just learned to ride a bike two weeks ago,” Green said.
“We saw a lot of good shows. We saw Frankie Valli. We saw Jersey Boys,” said Joyce Dollak, recounting some of the summer’s top Atlantic City entertainment experiences. She was on the boardwalk Sunday morning with her husband, Joe. The couple have a residence nearby and also in Center City Philadelphia. They own the Carpet Shop in Fox Chase.
Had this been last summer, their greatest hit would have been the surprise 50th wedding anniversary party their daughter threw them. Where did they meet? Where else? Down the Shore.
“It was a true romance,” Joyce said.
Asked about her best memory this summer, Cindy Strano, 61, of Bridgeton didn’t miss a beat.
“I had my gall bladder surgery, and my whole family came!” said Strano, a driver for the disabled.
A hospital procedure may not sound like a good time, but hear her out.
“It was amazing,” Strano said, adding that relatives came to see her from as far away as New Mexico. Strano brought them to Ocean City, including her cousin’s 6-year-old daughter who had never seen anything like it before.
“It was her first time seeing the ocean,” Strano said. “Oh, my gosh! She didn’t want to come in from the beach.”
On Sunday, Ava Amaro, not quite 3, of Plymouth Meeting, hit the rides at the boardwalk’s Hollywood Arcade and was well on her way, with the help of her mother, Chelsea, a schoolteacher, to winning a rubber ducky, as her father, Andrew, related his summer highlight: seeing Ava learn to swim.
It was the end of July, and they were on vacation in Sea Isle City.
“I was surprised,” said Andrew, 32, an insurance salesman. “Probably more proud. 'Oh my gosh, she just did it!’”
Father and daughter put in time at the vacation condo’s pool before it clicked.
“We worked on it a lot,” Andrew said. “Then I let her go, and my wife was really scared. But she started kicking, and she was off.”
So many moments to savor.
John Lazar, 65, a retired union business agent from Northeast Philadelphia, was on the beach working on his formidable tan Sunday morning. Some of his best times were being out on the water alone on his jet ski.
“I go out and turn off the motor and just watch the dolphins,” said Lazar, who has a condo with his wife, Annette, in Ocean City.
Wendy Kane, a commercial banker from Cherry Hill, loved sharing the excitement of her little ones, Vincent, 7, and Ava, 5, on the boardwalk rides.
Walen Mikluscak, 3, of Pittsburgh got his first tattoo the night before — OK, it was just henna — like his father, Aaron, 28. a well driller who has lots of real ones. His mother, Rebecca, a nurse, 28, got to watch both her guys build a castle out of sand, just as she did when she was little.
In some ways, the real magic is that line — invisible yet undeniable — that connects the past to the present, and beyond.
For Faith Hutchinson, 15, of Medford Township, outside a boardwalk Starbucks, the best of summer 2019 was the memories she made with her friends at her family’s place in Ocean City. For her mother, Nancy, a former teacher, the magic was just being there to witness it.