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As Ariane often did as a child, I traveled with my family to a consistent vacation home.  And, as Ariane’s did, my family drifted away from such a tradition (certain niceties fall by the wayside after divorce).  But I have nothing but fond memories of Ocean Grove as kid-friendly, ice-cream-cone-osmosis-ing, boogie-boarding, porch-people, sidewalk-waving kind of place.

Ocean Grove, NJ: God’s Square Mile, everyone!  Clearly, my story is at a CROSS-roads (hugh hugh) with Ariane’s at this deeply Christian turn that our vacation home takes.  Ocean Grove: where you nearly run over all the bible studies on the boardwalk while taking your morning bike ride and where the American flag is flown as proudly as the cross is worn around your neck.  But the Bible-thumping is so interwoven in this two-month town that it feels more like Bible-wearing.  “The OG” wears its religion well.  It wears it right on (and through) the consistent Victorian architecture that is outlined in the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association’s building code and straight up to the Great Auditorium and down the aisle in the ritualistic Usher’s March.

After a rather exasperating struggle through Port Authority (Port Authority:  where the crazies stay cool and the personnel are clueless) and a sigh-full bus trip (buses vs. trains became a running joke this weekend), I arrived at 51 Bath Avenue to a heart-warming welcome from my extended Carmichael family and friends:  Grandma and Grandpa, the Thornburys (Aunt Kimberly and Uncle Greg, their daughters Kate (11) and Carolyn (9)) and family friend, Jennifer Tharp.

A note on the Thornburys:  decidedly the hipper, fun-ner part of the Carmichael clan. Kimberly and Greg recently celebrated their 19th wedding anniversary, but don’t have the bored, itchy mannerisms of seasoned couples.  Instead, the whole family seems to get cooler with each passing year (maybe its the distinct choices in funky eye wear made by every family member, or maybe its the significantly larger cultural and technological no-how of “Thornies” in the face of my tv-opposing, magazine-avoiding, NPR-listening nucleus).  And what’s better than hanging out with a super-sweet cousin Kate or sassy cousin Carolyn?  I enjoyed boogie-boarding with Kate for a day and walking the beach at night with Carolyn.  Love the T-babes!

And, per the usual, a wide range of emotions and near-catastrophes were reached within 24 hours (think ear infection, a 102 degree fever, multiple cases of sun stroke, parking disasters and multi-layered-never-meeting dinner discussions on top of reunions, morning boardwalk explorations, hilarity, amazement-both positive and cynical-, board games, truth and dare with jimmies-and-butter-and-pink-salt-sandwiches and casual smooth jazz concerts).  Think of my family life as extreme reality.

Ice cream is had after every meal at Day’s: or  Nagel’s:

and the organ in the Great Auditorium is played every hour, on the hour.  Life is good and the going’s easy at the OG with morning bike rides on the boardwalk to Asbury Park, cantaloupe by the scoop and “Draw Something” parties.  A highlight of the weekend was basking in the sultry heat of the night and in the sultry voice of Diana Krall, who was matched by an equally impressive guitarist, drummer and bassist (yowzers!).

With all the fun had this weekend, I hope to get my own OG tradition up and running:  #OG2013!

Best wishes and much love to family and the OG,

Martha Scott

P.S.  I’m thinking about adding a “getting to know you” note in the signature of my email, in which I emphasize the SCOTT of Martha Scott and discuss the semantics of a double name.  Thoughts?