Ocean City in August and Everything After

by Aaron Notarianni Stephens. 0 Comments

I sit on the seashore in Ocean City and reflect on my short time in Guatemala. In many ways I feel guilty that I’m at the beach after seeing such need. Isn’t there something I should be doing?

Yet, at the same time and for so many years, Ocean City in August has served as the closing of one season of my life and the start of another. The city is one of the few constant backdrops of my life – and for the most part, a visit has always signified a time for change.

As I look in the mirror at the Sea Scape Motel, physical change in me is evident. This is the same mirror that decades ago, I’d like my tan yet feel uncomfortable with my acne. Now, I once again like my tan yet feel uncomfortable with my gray hair.

I don’t remember exactly what year my parents started taking me and my brothers to Ocean City for vacation. It was just somewhere we always visited.

When I was six, I remember buying a sticker book at a boardwalk store. Stickers were all the rage for a six-year-old and I was excited to have found a skunk scented sticker. The skunk beat the boring strawberry, suntan lotion, and lemon scents that I could usually find.

At age eight, I broke a boardwalk glow stick while lying awake in the hotel bunk bed.  The Luke Skywalker lightsaber green liquid stung my eyes, stuck on my hands, and made the walls of the Sea Scape glow in the dark for the remainder of the trip.

When I was ten, we left for Ocean City two days after our family dog, Bandana, was hit by a car and died. At bedtime for the first few nights, I would cry uncontrollably about Bandana.  Then, my parents bought me an invisible dog leash. My ten-year-old self was comforted as I believed that I could now walk the ghost of my dog down the boardwalk. I know it was weird – but it helped.

At sixteen, Ocean City was where I feared the start of my junior year of high school because two close friends were leaving for college. I didn’t think I’d survive school without them. I did. And, the opportunity allowed me to become more of my own person.

When I was eighteen, my parents and three brothers were in Ocean City and I was home in Erie, Pennsylvania. I was supposed to be getting ready to head off for college in Ohio. But when my family returned, I had a surprise for them. I had enrolled in a university in my home town and wasn’t leaving. That particular week in August of 1994 was also the week I met my future wife.

The next August at age nineteen, the trip to Ocean City was the unofficial start to the end of my parents’ marriage. They separated two months later; and eventually divorced.

In my early twenties, Alicia and I moved from Pennsylvania to Maryland. With kids in tow, I was now the father on family vacations to Ocean City. We continued to stay at the Sea Scape Motel; which by this point, we affectionately referred to as the Cheapskate Motel.

At twenty-nine, Ocean City was a place of reconciliation. Following my parents’ divorce, I hadn’t talked to my father for many years. The anger and pain that are wrapped up in a decision like that is destructive. Prayer became forgiveness. Forgiveness led to peace. And peace led to a family vacation in August in Ocean City.

Today at thirty-seven, I sit on the sand in Ocean City in August. Jonah turned sixteen on this trip. Tyler is in Uganda working with the Boanerges Deaf Initiative. Vienna is learning to surf.  Gideon is getting ready for first grade.  Alicia is feeling called to visit Uganda herself.

I sit on the seashore and see each new God-given wave as a unique ride that brings its own story. The water and Earth mix together in a chaotic symphony. Some waves are exciting to ride.  Some knock me down. It is constant movement. Rarely is there complete calmness. I don’t know what I would do if there was complete calmness. My soul begs for change and movement.

I need to decide which wave to take next as I wonder about Ocean City in August and everything after.

Jonah on the seashore



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