When I think of summer with my family, I think of the things we do every single year and how I love our traditions, especially our end-of-summer Long Beach Island week.

We’ve been going to LBI for a decade, and every single year, when we head to the family amusement park, I am nervous that the lizard man who gives his reptile presentation on stage every night won’t be there anymore. He is not young, and his voice sounds oily, his affectations so gelled over the years that he could talk about his reptiles in his sleep. But it’s so comforting to walk into the park and see him there again, with his beard and Hawaiian shirt, safari shorts . . . cause he’s made it through another long winter just like we have—cause he’s been doing this forever and he’s still so alive and so in love with his lizards. It’s the first thing I do when I get to the park, check for him.

We were in our LBI rental house when Hurricane Irene came along, watching the storekeepers getting ready, nailing up wooden window covers, spray-painting on the words, “Play Nice, Irene.” We locked up this house and left for home just ahead of the storm. And it was only a year later that we watched on tv as Hurricane Sandy came barreling through our LBI town, to our stores and restaurants and beaches, somehow sparing our house, which is just a few yards from where Sandy did her worst damage. As we rode our bikes down to the tip of the island the next year, there were so many lots with only their stilts left, the houses were gone. There used to be two trailer parks at the very end of the island—one of them disappeared that year. Even now, sand is being pumped onto shore, the beaches being restored.

I’ve watched my family grow up here, making the last wishes of summer year after year, getting a little bigger, a little older, and I’m more grateful each year that we can get to LBI again.

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Holly McGhee