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Family, LBI and garbage bags

When I was younger my family had two places we’d vacation at yearly. The first was the Pocono Mountains, more commonly referred to as the Poke-a-nose with the young Mahoney and Platt kids. My Uncle Rich’s mom and dad owned a home there and we’d spend summers at the lake and winters bundled up by the fire with hot chocolate.

The second was Long Beach Island, in New Jersey. This was an all family event, the Mahoneys, the Platts and the Gilsenans would rent two houses, we’re a family of roughly 40 people, down at the beach and enjoy a week or two doing nothing but riding bikes, relaxing at the beach and spending our hard-earned allowance at The Land of Make Believe.

Some of my favorite memories took place at these two places. The first time I rode a horse was in the Poconos, his name was Wyoming, and it snowed the whole time. That’s where my love of riding and my dream to visit Wyoming were born. I heard Uncle Mike sing “I found my thrill on Blueberry Hill…” when he ordered blueberry ice cream at Showplace in LBI. I also remember two of my aunts coming home with tattoos after a few margaritas in LBI and my sister Shannon lighting lettuce on fire at the Pocono house.

So much of my childhood was spent making memories at these two places with my family. And so many of those memories are often brought up again at family gatherings. And some new ones are revealed at our annual Christmas Confessions.

It occurred to me last week how it’s been a while since my whole family took a vacation together. Renting a house in Florida to visit Walt Disney World is the last one I remember, and that was in 2001. I got a little sad when I thought of all the memories we could have been making on those vacations.

But then it hit me.

It wasn’t about where we were, a whole new batch of memories are made every time the Platts, Gilsenans, Mahoneys and Rizzos (my sister Patty got married two years ago) get together.

Last weekend I traveled back to Staten Island to take part in the Travis Fourth of July parade. The longest continuous running parade in the nation at 104 years. The parade route is only a mile long and it runs right through my hometown, welcoming visitors from all over the Island and the rest of the city. This year, right as the parade stepped off, the skies opened up and the rain came down.

After the parade, the entire family comes back to Mom’s house for a barbeque, backyard games and anything else we can think up. Due to the weather this year, most of the family hid inside or under the Jets tent Uncle Damian brought. But there were a few of us who braved the elements for a good time.

Black carpenter bags were ripped open and laid in a line, stuck in the grass with plastic forks and the garden hose came out. Yes folks, my family made their own Slip ‘n Slide. Despite the cold temperatures and the rain, my cousins, sisters and myself sprinted toward a makeshift runway and slide down the grass on garbage bags. It was all fun and games until Chris, who recently moved back to SI from Tonawanda, busted out the Silly String and attacked the sliders at the end of their run.

Turns out, it’s not about where you are, but who you’re with. And my family is just the kind to make a few memories every time we get together. Keep an eye out for more ridiculous memories I’m sure to have after our annual August whitewater rafting trip. Always a good time.

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