We happened to find an OSU alum that was willing to rent out his home on the boardwalk for the week, despite the fact that we were all under 25 (most of us under 21 at the time). As it turns out, we were perhaps the youngest adults on the island. Our new home for the week was surrounded by retired neighbors waving to us from their porches, and the beaches were only lightly scattered with sunbathers or families. Most of the time, it seemed as if we had the whole island to ourselves.
We spent our days in the sand and the sea or exploring the tiny surrounding ghost towns further up on the panhandle. We spent our nights cooking elaborate family meals (though pasta night turned out disastrous - another story for another time) and playing music by the ocean under the moon. There was a neighborhood dog that followed us around, digging up crabs and playing fetch with our frisbees. We spent a day hiking in a nearby national park, and we frequented the local ice cream parlor almost as much as we did the beach.
One morning when we were walking in to town, we ran in to an older man on his bike. He stopped us to ask where we were coming from, and if we were there on spring break. He told us about his first time on the island - some time in the 70's when he was on his spring break from college. He fell in love with the island - and with a girl he met that week. Long story short, he and that girl got married, had kids, and are now blissfully retired in the very place that they met. It was a sweet, almost unbelievable story - just one of the many quiet moments I'll always remember from that trip.
Whenever I think about that spring break, and as I write about it now, I feel that terrible tug of nostalgia at my heart. I know that we, as flawed human beings, have a tendency to remember things as better than they maybe were - glorifying what we no longer have; but there is a big part of me that believes the softness, the serenity and the peace we felt that week is as true and as pure as I remember it to be.
A lot of things have changed since then. We grew up, we graduated. Couples broke up, friends drifted apart. And we lost one of our own, taken too soon by cancer. It is impossible to remember that spring break without remembering Tyler - his sunburn from that week as bright in my memories as the shining sun. Much like the week itself, his presence was always quiet, calming and comforting. His effect on people was perhaps one of the only things permanent and lasting from that trip, and undoubtably, the most unforgettable.
As the Boston winter sets in, I've been thinking more and more about our escape to the beach. I wonder what it would be like to go back - if I could ever be like that man we met on the boardwalk and his wife, always trying to return to that spring break magic. It hurts to think about, but I know it would never be the same. Too much has changed, too much has been lost.
Memories such as these are the ones that pique my artist interest. A memory so pure, so vivid and happy and calm in its entirety, is tainted - not by the instances held within the week itself, but by the fallout and the emotions accrued over the passing years. Our perceptions, our reflections, our past realities are largely constructed by the passing of time and the changing of seasons.