Beach Vampires in Training

We are the type of family that enjoys doing things together. We plan dinners together. Go on trips together. Vacation together. Plan museum trips. Go to see free concerts in Coney Island. Like many families, there were a lot of us, and we continue to be each others best friends. I see at least a few cousins several times a month. I speak with my sister almost daily. And, when when Summertime came around, just about every week, we'd get everyone together and go to the beach. That's 30 of us, piling into cars and going down to Brighton Beach Bay 5 (it's the one with the parking lot).

Pete and his signature smirk

Nettie, Pete's mom, would make gallons of family Iced Tea (a big secret recipe punishable by never getting another glass), pot loads of meatballs and sauce, her famous 'crusher' sandwiches, and a load of other goodies. Pete's sisters, aunts and uncles, cousins, their kids would all meet at Nettie's house, getting everyone into their bathing suits and waiting for Pete Sr. to get home from work.

We'd almost never leave the house before 3:00pm to get to the beach. Most usually, it was closer to 4:00pm. Nettie would say that we couldn't go anywhere until the men got home from work, but even on weekends, we never got to the beach any earlier. Nettie never liked to sit in the sun. She usually had an umbrella with her and preferred to swim when the sun wasn't directly on her. So, when ever other family was packing up to go home from the beach. We were just arriving ... all 30 of us. Most of us had no suntans ... we were like beach vampires ... light skinned water loving monsters.

We'd take up a huge section of the beach and all the kids, Pete Sr and Peter would go into the water. Peter's father was a lifeguard so he would swim out far, past the rocks and just tread water for a long time. Peter, Nancy, Michelle, and I would swim out after him. It was especially thrilling when the beach lifeguards went home and Pete Sr. and Peter would allow me to stay out really far with them. I loved not being able to feel the ground beneath my feet. Peter would tease me that sharks were going to bite my toes, but he promised he wouldn't let them get more than one toe, maybe only the pinky toe, because no one really needed pinky toes.

Then when I couldn't stand the thought of losing toes to sharks, Peter would swim back in with me so I wouldn't be frightened. Then he'd swim back out to his father. We'd stay at the beach late, till the sun was going down (or a lightening storm was brewing). We'd eat warm meatball sandwiches (sometimes crunchy with sand in it - yuk), oatmeal cookies  and drink ice cold tea sitting on our blankets. We were usually the only people on the beach. I loved those days !

I still get down to the beach late afternoons at least a couple of times a season to spend an evening eating dinner and watching the seagulls on the beaches of Coney Island (West 27 Street). As my husband and I are walking onto the beach, droves of sun worshippers are coming off. The sun is less harsh, the water a little cooler, it's so peaceful and it brings me back to simplier days when all I cared about was how long we could stay in the water and if my aunts would let me help make a sandcastle with them.

By the way, when Nettie died in her 80s, she didn't have one single wrinkle. Good genetics or never a sun-tanned face? Who knows, but everyone always thought she had a face lift, even her doctors, and she never did.


  1. My grandma came from Poland (near Kraków). She's 88 and still got her teeth! Every time she went in hospital the nurses said: "Please put your false teeth out!" and no one could believe they are her right ones. :) Thank God I got her teeth, maybe I won't have any artficial ones, too! :) Love from Germany! ♥

  2. I love that your family did everything a bit differently (mine does to). You are lucky to have such a big family, there would have been something exciting going on all the time..without even trying. My memories of being out in deep water as a kid make me shiver now. What the hell was I doing out there, a shark could have got me!
    Like Peter my brother tried to scare me, he would chase me with jellyfish he found on the beach. You would of had a harder time with Peter being so big, he would have been so hard to run/swim away from. Peter, always the gentleman.. swimming back to shore with you. I would have liked to swim with him as a kid, I would figure if a shark came it would get him first because he's bigger. I have the visual of a White Pointer opening his mouth, teeth out then very daintily biting off just a pinky toe!!!

  3. This is one of my favorite posts so far! And what a great picture of Peter!

  4. Awwww. <3 Too sweet. Nobody needs pinky toes? Crafty statement. Now I'm wondering...

  5. Lovely story!

    Greetings from the krypt (from another beach vampire ;D)


  6. Beautiful story!! It's amazing looking back to the "simpler times" isn't it? I look at all the people today that don't have a clue of what "family time" means. It makes me grateful that I came from a large family and grateful that I grew up in the 70's and 80's, before all the annoying technology got in everyones way. Thank you so much for posting this. xo

  7. What a fantastic post! And even better memories, it seems! Thank you so much for sharing these wonderful slices of your life with us!

  8. Great story once again! I wish I had a large family growing up like that. I love your family stories because the warmth really comes through in your writing. I imagine it is because of your obvious love and admiration for them and the memories you have. I especially liked the part about Peter hanging out in the water with his dad and then swimming you in to make sure you were safe and then heading out to him again. Such caring and respect. I am a sun worshipper for sure and I can imagine if I live to 80 my face is going to look ewww' haha oh well. Peace.

  9. Oh this sounds awesome! I used to live by the lake and being very pale, Mom usually only brought us down there in the afternoons. I thought I was the only pale person to frequent the beach!

  10. Rosemarie from NY11:39 AM, July 20, 2011

    First off, the picture of Peter is so sweet. That smile, those eyes, the magnificent man. Well I'm in tears again reading these sweet stories. Coney Island yes I remember it well being from NY myself now living in CALIF (but missing NY). Peter being the hero that he was must have made you feel so safe. No wonder he took it so bad when he lost his parents, you were all so close. I had a family like that when we lived in NY. We too would pile people in cars and drive out to beaches. In our case, we went to the Catskills each summer until I was 9 yrs old. We also went to New Jersey Shore and Coney Island was right outside my bedroom window. I used to see the fireworks I think on Tuesday nights. Those were beautiful times. I used to go to the penny candy stores in Brooklyn somewhere near a bridge and bring 25 cents and get a ton of candy. I so look forward to your stories it's like I'm there with you all part of your family. You are family now We understand how you all feel. Please keep your stories coming. You take care now.

  11. Hi Darcie--

    This is great! I'd be under the umbrella with Nettie; I HATE sitting in the sun. Must be the Polish genes, because I'm fair-skinned too (not to mention blonde), and I like it that way! :) That's the best time to go to the beach, when nobody else is there. I'm about six blocks from the beach, and on a clear day I can see Long Island from there.
    So, um, is there a chance you could give us this secret family recipe for the iced tea, or do we have to wait until pigs fly?! ;)
    Thanks for another awesome story.
    Love & Gratitude--Patty P

  12. I love these 'warm' stories. Reminds me of vacations when I was young.
    We used to go for 4 weeks to a camping site somewhere in France or Italy with several families with a lot of kids. From dusk, till late in the evening we played, though most of the time I was in the sea. My mother commanded me several times a day to come out of the water because my lips were blue from the cold water :-)and rubbed me warm with a towel.

    I still like to go to the beach in the late afternoons and stay till dusk or even longer. A sandwich, a good book, a ball to play and a blanket. Life can still be easy.

    when I saw the picture I realised ... I can't remember I ever saw a picture of Peter with a genuine big smile and a twinkle in his eyes

  13. Oh...I am with Lisa...loved this story and the great photo of Pete. It captures his 'essense'.

  14. Great story, and the photo is very characteristic of Pete. It shows a facial feature of his I'd found very intriguing over the years, at least mostly, when not negated. He had amazing eyebrows, and they gave his face an exotic quality. Not sure who he inherited them from but they were fantastic.
    I share Nettie's logic, avoiding harsh noon sun, using an umbrella, remaining ghostly pale as well due to Northern European-Scandanavian DNA. Nettie was a beautiful woman. She obviously knew what she was doing and looked after her beloved 'Beach Vampires' well.
    It must've been such a treat to go swimming in afternoons with such a large, loving clan, heading far out into the waters for scary-fun. "Nobody really needs pinky-toes anyway." I can just hear him saying it. What a great Pete-ism! Glad you were surrounded by only the most selective of sharks.
    Thanks so much, Darcie, for sharing the warmth and closeness of your family with us!

  15. This is a wonderful story! Lots of wonderful memories. My mother is 70 years old and looks like she is late 40's early 50's she has beautiful skin and takes good care of it. She has always told my sister and i that it was important to take good care of your skin especially your face and she along with all of her other siblings ( 12 ) nine of those twelve were girls. One of the things she taught us was to never use bar soap on our faces and i have stood by her words for as long as i could remember and she does not go out in the sun without protecting her self. Like nettie my mother stays in the shade and she does not swim she would rather watch everyone have a good time.
    Reading about the memories you have shared with each other is timeless and has brought back some memories that i have shared with my family. Family is very important to me and even though some have passed on i still remember the good time we had together..Thank you for sharing :)

  16. I am really loving all theses summer beach/ pool stories. I think our family should try to play Take the Monster Down since my husband is so tall. Peter was such an amazing person. What a beautiful family and I also happen to agree that 4:00 p.m. or after is the best time for heading to the beach or the pool. RIP Peter Peter, you are so dearly missed.---Jessica (Black Number 1)

  17. cinnamongirl131312:24 AM, July 23, 2011

    love the story. love the pic. and love the term 'beach vampires'. your family is so amazing to share so much. thank you over and over

  18. God bless your family..such heartwarming stories is what makes the family.I can't believe its been six years already since Peter has passed..but I know from experience losing a loved one the grief rains and we learn to live on ..I lost my firstborn son in 08..I pray you have comfort..the world lost a big heart and a great talent when Peter died...RIP