Many summers ago, Sunday mornings would find me sitting by the ocean, drinking coffee and eating bagels, watching my three young children play in the surf at Field 5 of Robert Moses State Park. With me were my wife, Barbara, and many of our Greenlawn neighbors. Some Sundays, there might be 15 or 20 of us.
The ritual has continued for more than 40 years.
It all started when one of our friends suggested that some Sunday morning we might cook breakfast at the park. A few of us met with our charcoal, bacon, eggs and juice for a picnic breakfast.
It took a while to get everything prepared, but sitting at a picnic table, smelling the salt air and sizzling bacon, watching the kids play and hearing the pounding surf were a sensory delight. At nearby tables, some older couples — we were young then — enjoyed a Champagne breakfast.
When our meal was over, we headed for the beach a few short yards away and enjoyed the surf and sun. By noon, we had soaked up our quota of UV rays and left for home. The event was so successful, we continued this routine Sunday after Sunday every summer.
What kept us together was that we were all friends from the Greenlawn area with common interests centered around our young children. Harborfields schools, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and sports kept us involved with our kids and each other.
Eventually, the preparation of elaborate beach breakfasts became a chore, and our eating habits evolved into hot coffee and bagels taken directly to the water’s edge. There were some variations — doughnuts, juice, fruit — but the staples were bagels and java.
Certain rituals also evolved, like dipping into the Atlantic before breaking our fast. On an August day with water temperatures in the mid-70s, this is not a big deal. But on Memorial Day weekend, with the water temperature below 60, this can be an out-of-body experience. In those early years, my friend Frank Springer and I considered this our annual physical. If we did not get a heart attack when the shock of frigid water hit our chests like a sledgehammer, we were good for another year.
As the seasons passed, people moved, kids grew up and life changed. However, there were always a few folks who still went to Field 5 and set up their beach chairs in the same spot near the lifeguard stand, just to the right of the green flag. Although sometimes, I suspect no one was there and at other times there were only one or two couples — the tradition lingered on, but just barely.
Now there is a resurgence of interest. Our children are grown and have shown their children the joy of the beach on a Sunday morning. I occasionally join them and try to maintain the tradition of a short dip before breakfast. However, I did stop taking my unofficial Memorial Day ocean physical. I now take a more traditional exam at the doctor’s office. In 1994, I had a quadruple bypass. It must have been the year I forgot to take my Robert Moses survival test.
Reader Bill Domjan lives in Melville.