The Trio and Sandy The Storm of The Shore
I am re-posting this intimate and emotional story about the beloved town of Seaside Heights and its boardwalk. Originally I wrote it as my feelings poured out in a fictionally based piece about the beautiful and nostalgic boardwalk of Seaside Heights NJ. Sadly recently in the weeks past the boardwalk again came under attack. After a magnificent re-build and summer season, the boards were fiercely destroyed in a fire in September 2013. I feel, as do so many, the sadness of this event is almost debilitating. To watch the evening news as the boards re-built went up in flames was an insult to a barely healed wound. I know, however, this community is strong and the love history of Seaside Heights will always live on, I also know they will rebuild once again. May all those who fought for the preservation of this amazing boardwalk be blessed and may God smile on the future of this community.
The Trio and Sandy The Storm Of The Shore
Samson was a burly, Saint Bernard, he had been known by the surf-side shore town of Seaside Heights, New Jersey, for many years. He was always seen with a scruffy old guy named Sid. Now, Sid had also made a name for himself in this particular community. He would sit on a boardwalk bench with a rolling basket and work quietly in the midst of the ocean breeze. He was an artisan that enjoyed watching the diversity of the people strolling up and down the long-standing boards. Sid was a short, slightly slumped over, gray-haired, bearded gentleman. He donned a sports coat, regardless of the temperature. Sid was a fan of wine bottle creations, his favorite workpieces being made from those bottles of cobalt blue glass. He would create various seascapes and other images that he would patiently etch in the deep blue glass with meticulous precision and adherence to detail.
Samson was a friendly and gentle giant and sat prominently by his master’s side. Samson kept watch over his keeper like an angel on duty, he was at the same time welcoming and lovable, to the people who were interested and would approach him. The beautiful white, brown and black patched coat was attractive, not to mention his mere size was one that caught the eye of the passerby. A young child would fearlessly wander up to Samson, he would shake his head and his long generous fur would fly up in the breeze and then lay back down neatly and in place. After a good shake, he would reach his nose for his toy ball and gently nudge it toward the attentive child to engage in a game of toss. It was a sweet childlike interaction and one Samson would only engage in with the children on the boardwalk. These two amigos, Sid, and Samson were never apart from one another. They were a team.
Sid had formed his affections for wine bottle art, as it was a way to connect to his memorable past. Sid had come to the New Jersey shore area as a young man looking for work. He felt his chances would be good if he could go to a vineyard and offer his skill and physical capabilities to the winery owners. Renault Winery was well known for offering labor and other positions, especially in the summer months. Sid felt confident that he could do well in this environment as his family was Italian and his ancestors were winery workers, his grandfather even owned a small vineyard of his own, back in Italy.
Sid’s parents had come to America when he was just an infant hoping to offer their young family the American Dream. His father taught him to honor God, work hard, and be respectful and humbly thankful. He often reminded Sid, “ To always look back to where he came from and forward to where God desired him to be. “ He was raised in the row homes of Newark, NJ. Where people knew everyone and secrets were minimal due to the closeness of the living situation. He was familiar with the clamoring of neighborhood ladies as they hollered after one another’s children. He had more than once been brought to his young mother by one of the Italian grandmothers on the block, his ear securely pinched between an old woman’s wrinkled and yet strong firm hand. He was one of the many squirrelly boys that would eagerly finish the chores set by their fathers, so they could meet up in the alleyways for a pickup game of stick ball. This community raised their children with family values and a passionate work ethic, and they did it together. After the experience of his upbringing, it was no surprise that Sid would be chomping at the bit to head out on his own. At the age of sixteen, he would get a summer position working at the Renault Winery in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey. He knew this would be a great place to get some experience and he also knew he could make a fair income in return for hard work.
The first summer at the winery Sid worked in many capacities. He was coming to the winery in 1966, in this year the chateau style hospitality house was well established, some eighteen years earlier and now the museum became an addition to the property. The eloquent owner was Maria, Sister of John D’Agostino, who had taken over the winery after her brother's passing in 1948. This year 1966 she created a museum on the property where she displayed her collection of wine glass art, some dating back to the thirteenth century. Maria entrusted young Sid during his first summer to be the polisher of the wine glass collection. She shared the importance of the crafted pieces and demonstrated a technique of care with a soft Italian cloth with which to buff them after carefully cleaning them. Sid was enamored with the stories and history behind each article in the museum. He felt a sense of pride that he was chosen to keep the collection intact and he took this position very seriously. Sid was also a speedy and talented grape picker. He was given ample opportunity to learn the business, as he was open to any job that needed to be done. He never complained or questioned the need for a task to be completed. He worked so very diligently that he was invited at the age of eighteen to come to the winery and work year round. He was so excited for this opportunity and this was when his own artisan passion took hold, as he began to create masterpieces of glass art on bottles and wine glasses alike.
After Sid became established as a year-round grounds keeper and worker at the winery he began to frequent the boardwalk in the summer evenings. One such night he came to the pier with a group of his buddies from Newark, they were anxious to check out the rides and food on Casino Pier. It was on one of those warm summer nights that Sid was, for a brief time, separated from his crew and found himself in a line at the candy apple stand. He was so taken by the young woman who came to the line right after him that he found it difficult to keep his eyes front. She was a beauty, with her dark auburn hair that was wrapped in a kerchief, keeping the wind from messing with her lovely curls. Her bangs fell gently to one side and her eyes gleamed as she looked ahead to the candy apples behind the glass counter. She wore a casual pale pink blouse and a knee length skirt in a dark navy shade, with a small white anchor patch on the bottom right corner. She wore a cute pair of white Ked tennis shoes with a new pair of fluffy white Bobby Socks. Sid was so entranced by this young woman, that he stammered and fumbled his order when he got to the counter. The older man who was waiting on chuckled, as he could see the blushing in the young man's cheeks. Sid glanced back at her, hoping she had not noticed his embarrassment. He thought to himself, how on earth could he save face in this humiliating situation. Then it popped into his head like a lightning bolt, he would purchase a candy apple for her. So, Sid quickly added her apple to his order, as he stated to the stand owner, “and one, for the young lady, please?” He paid the man who was now smiling and grasped the two apples, from the merchant. He turned toward the young woman and said, “I hope it is okay, I got your apple for you.” She smiled politely and reached for the apple as they walked toward the bench side of the pier. Sid finally got the nerve to say, “May I be so bold as to ask your name?” She answered, “Why but, of course, my name is, Isabella, Isabella Rosalina D’Agostino.” Sid knew this name; it was the family name of the Renault Winery owners. Sid was so excited to have a point of reference for his conversation. He began to inquire, are you from the D’Agostino family that owns Renault Winery? Isabella grinned and also perked up at his knowledge of something having to do with her family name. She continued, well, yes in a way. They are my distant relatives, but actually, I am not from the immediate family that runs the winery. My family and I have of course been there for the occasional family wedding or special event. She went on to describe the winery in elegant detail, as she spoke, it gave an entirely new and whimsical image, of this familiar place in Sid’s mind. He felt he was seeing the winery for the first time through Isabella’s eyes, as she reminisced about frolicking in the vineyard as a young girl. The two ended up talking for hours, both equally involved and curious as to what the other would say next. Isabella was quite taken with this young man and after their first meeting, they were rarely parted. After an appropriate courtship, the two were married in the vineyard, they both loved it so dearly.
They found a little apartment close to the boards where they could be between the two places they loved most the winery and the Casino Pier Boardwalk. Many of their nights were spent strolling the pier and talking about their life dreams. Sid continued to work at the winery for a bit, but then he became more focused on his artwork and he wanted to be closer to the boards, which was his favorite place to work on his creations. He took a job at one of the local restaurants, working in the kitchen. The work was steady and it allowed him time to pursue his love of art.
Isabella became Sid’s biggest fan. She would wake early in the morning and pack him a sack lunch to take with him to the boards where he would go to his spot and work away. The two desperately tried to start a family, and yet it was not meant to be. They found out early into their union that Isabella had a weak heart and to burden her body with the birth of a child could be life threatening. The couple was sadly disappointed and yet their love was so genuine and they knew their life would be happy, their trials they would face together. Isabella felt as though there were so many children frolicking on the board’s often-unattended locals as their parents were working tirelessly to make a wage for their families. Isabella became the Mary Poppins of the boards, looking out for the youngin's and also being the firm advice or support that some of the pre-teens or teens needed. Sid had become a bit of a pied piper for the kids as well. He was a jovial and happy man when with his Isabella. She had a young and energetic spirit, even though her body failed her at times.
The couple went many years with their routine of being a staple to the boardwalk activities, but as they neared their sixties, Isabella was slowing a bit and she wanted a companion for her Sid. She knew the time was nearing when going to the boards with him may be difficult. She did not want to worry her beloved Sid so; she brought up the idea of adding a family member. They both decided and after some discussion, went on a mission to find a pet to love. Sid had been entertaining the thought of a family pet as well, again the two were always on the same path, almost as if they were one heart feeling the same things. Thus, they adopted their beloved Samson at the nearby shelter. Samson, was just a pup at three months, although he appeared much larger at this early age due to his breed. When Isabella saw his sad little face and felt his slobbery affection there were no more questions, they had found their family member. They were walking him home and with great spontaneity Isabella yelled out, Samson, yep, it's a great name, we will call him Samson. Hence, the long haired beautiful beast was named, as when Isabella looked at him, she thought of the long haired and strong Samson depicted in the stories of the Bible.
Samson was a fun lovin’ pup, he was a bit of a mischievous one when it came to shoes and socks. No matter what, though he loved to play and he was so loyal to Sid and Isabella. The three would walk the boards at night and Samson became quite the famous dog, he was, after all, an enormous Saint Bernard. He wore a small cowbell around his neck that jingled oh so quietly, as he would stride past the onlookers out for the nights entertainment. Sadly the trio’s outings were cut short when Samson turned five years old. Isabella, now nearing her, later sixties had suffered greatly with her heart condition and she was no longer able to go on their long strolls. Sid found a bicycle trolley and for a time he was able to continue their outings together on the four-seated contraption. It was a cumbersome task and, unfortunately, he was not able to do that for long as his age was creeping up on him, as well. Eventually on a winter’s day, Isabella succumbed to her frail condition and she just closed her eyes and went to sleep and then there were two.
Isabella’s funeral service was very beautiful; she was so loved by her church family as she was always looking after the babies so the parents could enjoy the services. She was a God fearing woman and she always did for others and for her Sid. She was content as a wife, and mother of their Samson and many of the young children on the boards called her Gram. They all felt the loss of her deeply, yet they had no doubt she would go straight up to heaven and Sid knew, he would see his love again one day. Sid and Samson were sad, but their routine remained the same every day they would leave their small apartment in town and head to the boards together. Sid was now retired yet he would never retire from his precious artwork. If not for Samson, his artwork would be all he had, now that Isabella was gone. Sid would work way into the night at times, as he did not have Isabella to make sure he was fed and rested and home at a decent hour. Sid found some extra comfort being on the boards at night, now even more so with Isabella not present at the apartment. Often, if he imagined he could see her in his mind walking down the boards with her hair blowing in the cool night breeze while she headed for a lemonade or some cotton candy, another of her favorites from the pier. He missed her, but somehow on their pier, he felt closer to his Isabella.
Sid was now in his seventies and he was a little worse for wear. His Samson was a loyal and dedicated companion as they traveled to their spot each day bright and early and stayed late into the evening hours. Each tide that rolled in had advanced their time together and both were showing the signs of their age. The boards were their home and Sid continued to share his creations and Samson was always looking for a good game of toss. When you saw the two of them sitting side by side, it almost looked like Samson had his paws in prayer position. Perhaps he did? Perhaps he was quietly speaking to Isabella asking her to help him take care of, Sid? Then one day in October, in the year 2012, a great threat was facing the shoreline they loved so dearly and the place Sid called home for some thirty plus years. The news was buzzing with the predictions of the impending storm a hurricane, named Sandy. Sid was concerned, but he had no intention of leaving his first-floor apartment only two blocks from the boardwalk pier. Sid knew no other place to be and so he decided, against the advice of officials, that he would stay put.
Sandy rolled onto the North East Atlantic Coast, on Monday, October 29th, 2012. This devastating storm was 900 miles wide and affected the entire Northeastern United States. The shore towns in its path were unrecognizable. In some places, entire parts of the coastline were changed forever. There were so many communities challenged by power outages and flooding in addition to the storms brutal slam. The surge was incomprehensible and this hurricane was overwhelming, and for so many reasons, life changing. Many homes were washed away or damaged beyond repair or at least not that of a quick fix. Seaside Heights was one of the areas hardest hit. Casino Pier was destroyed and the iconic pier was ripped away, taking with it the long-standing roller coaster, which now rested in the ocean wake. It stood like a tombstone as the water washed around it, and yet it attempted to stand proudly, representing so many memories of past days gone by. Casino Pier was now a place with a spirited past and the community vowed to put the pieces back together. Days, after this storm people were still evaluating and damages and it, was only then that it was found that the well-known team of Sid and Samson had not been accounted for. It was found that sadly the storm surge had flooded the first-floor apartment where Sid lived. Many homes and cottages were affected and the clearing of the devastation of downed power lines and debris was a tedious endeavor, and a cautious one at that, due to safety issues. The day the firefighters, were finally able to knock the door down, as an old willow tree was leaning up against it, would be a very sad day for the town. It was discovered that Sid was unable to get out of his apartment, with no power and the cold temperatures caused by an additional snowstorm in the days following the wake of Sandy. Needless to say, Sid was unable to maintain his body temperature and he had passed away while lying in his bed, which was at the highest point in the apartment where he could find respite from the storm. Sid made sure his beloved Samson had a warm blanket over him and food until there was none left and no means to get out and get to safety. Unfortunately, the damage to the communities and Northeast, in general, was so severe it was days before the news got out that no one had seen the dynamic duo in at least a week.
The firefighters were locals, many had grown up on those boards and Casino Pier was their home. They busted the door down and entered the small apartment hurrying their way inside to the bedroom area to hopefully find their very own Pied Piper Sid and his loyal companion Samson. Bobby Doyle was the first to get to the room, followed quickly by Jim Flanagan and Chief Tony. All three men were stopped in their tracks as they set their eyes on the scene before them. There in the tiny room was Sid, he was obviously not breathing and probably for some time, but right there by his side was old Samson, frozen like a statue, with his body almost spooning his owner, in an attempt to warm him. The two rested in each other’s arms and looked so very peaceful, almost as if they were smiling in complete comfort. As the men looked upon the terribly sad yet peaceful scene, they could almost see Gram, Isabella, dancing on the boards with a full cone of cotton candy and Samson, jumping up to reach it in a playful manner, and of course Sid right there with them smiling and happy on their pier, Casino Pier in Seaside Heights New Jersey. This somber moment tore the hearts of the firefighters as they fell to their knees in respect for the trio that so influenced their childhoods and even that of their young families. They quietly said a prayer, each of them humble and thankful as they remembered what Sid had taught them,
“To always look back where you came from and forward to where God desires you to be.” The Christmas seasons would continue to come and go, but this year a new ornament would be available to the people in this community. The ladies auxiliary would provide for its production. In honor of Sid’s love for art, a simple glass ornament called the Trio would be mass-produced. On it would be Sid, Isabella, and Samson, strolling down the boards of their beloved Casino Pier and a bright star would be etched in the top corner, shining down on this faithful trio.
God's Love and the signs of vibrancy in never dies
This piece is a work of fiction with some truthful fact in relation to the area, but so many stories like this could be written about the beautiful shore towns and other communities, like in New York also affected by this devastating storm. I wrote this piece so we do not forget those that will be rebuilding for years to come. Hoping we are all aware and that we have a willingness to help our neighbors where and when we can. Sid and Isabella from this story did just that for a lifetime, they were cognizant of the needs of others. They worked hard, loved unconditionally and followed God’s plan for their lives to the best of their ability. Samson was a loving, loyal companion because he too was loved. In every tragedy, there is a rainbow. Often the clouds must clear, tears must be shed, but ultimately God is in all things. He allows for the trials and He also brings the healing. For every life was torn apart and brought to Him there is a healing at work. It may be a seed that is planted during that time of turmoil that later becomes a new vineyard of beauty and elegance. Ironically the storm was called, Sandy, the name means defender of man. We have one defender, we just need to trust Him and keep loving each other as He loves us. Unconditionally through every valley and every peak. Remember the reason for this Christmas Season, look for the signs of Christmas to guide you. The baby came to a humble stable to live amongst the poorest showing all are welcome in His house. The wreath is a circle symbolizing His love is eternal; the candy cane is in the shape of a shepherd's crook and the colors of white and red symbolizing His most precious sacrifice and His purity. The Christmas tree is an evergreen that stands for perseverance in adversity. It is symbolic that we take it down and then it goes back up again as a remembrance of His death and resurrection. The presents are a reminder of the first gifts brought to the Child to honor His birth. These are just a few of the signs and symbols and it is possible that the meanings are different for you and your families. One thing remains through all the debate, God is Love. We have seen the love poured out in the wake of this terrible storm and during many of the storms in life. We must all be observant and love, show it; share it, for it is all we need. God is Love, and love is patient and kind, it does not envy or boast, it is not self-seeking and it does not enjoy when others suffer or meet with difficulty. Love does not keep records of wrongs and love is forgiveness. See 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8 prepare ye the way of the Lord.
Peace In Your Stages
© 2012 The Stages Of ME
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