Burnt Memories

By Isabella Donovan

Fifteen degrees out today—maybe down to 8 degrees this weekend. The first measurable snowfall of the season in New York City. Porch season in Rockaway seems so far away! Being inside my apartment in Brooklyn day after frigid day makes me miss that front porch more and more each day. My dad purchased the house in Rockaway after Hurricane Sandy so that we could have a beach house that is walking distance to my grandmother’s house in Belle Harbor. After the devastating natural disaster, everyone’s mental state was in shambles, and being with family became more important than ever. The life altering hurricane put things into perspective for my dad and made him realize that he has to treasure every moment with his family.

My dad purchased the Rockaway home with the intention of spending every summer there, and we have done exactly that—and more. Everything about the house is personal and special to my family, but almost all of our favorite memories have been made on the front porch. Almost every night, from June to August, even if my sister and I are not home, my dad makes a fire on the front porch. One thing he will almost never do, is put the fire out. No matter how many hours the fire has been running, or how late in the night it is, my father will sit outside, in his big comfortable recliner, and wait for the simmering flames to evaporate into the air until all that is left is smoke. Sometimes he will fall asleep out there and we can hear him come up the stairs to bed at 4 a.m. Even early in the morning, you can find my father, legs crossed, resting on his chair, with a baseball cap loosely thrown on his head, a coffee in his left hand, and a “Rockaway Times” newspaper in his right. Thankfully, he usually gets bagels for us too while we sleep the mornings away, like typical teenagers.

The front porch is laid out with two small couches and two recliners topped with enormous fluffy red and gold cushions and pillows. Our corgi, Sundance, always resorts to sitting in her designated seat in the corner of the left couch, near my dad’s feet. She might like the fires even more than he does! Next to each couch is a wooden side table, with remnants of s’mores stuck to the corners and sides. Ignoring the sticky substance, we still use the table as a homework stand, leaning on it to write, when we open the house near the end of each school year and when school starts up again in September. Frequently, I find myself getting distracted by a smack of smoke seeping out of the steel, cylindrical, fire pit, temporarily blinding me. The fire pit is the centerpiece of the porch, standing about four feet tall with a small oval opening on the lower end, stuffed with wood, charcoal and sticks. Across from the fire pit itself, is a rectangular wooden console, which stores all of the wood, and sticks for next time.

Some nights, the flames are accompanied by marshmallows on wooden sticks, the crunch of graham crackers, and laughter roaring from our cousins and friends. Other nights, the fire is accompanied by silence, as we close our eyes and relax, listening to the crickets of the night, the distant roar of the ocean and the soft crackling of sparks. The warmth from the fire kisses our sunburn, after spending eight hours on the beach earlier that day. Unaware of the fact that we have Hershey’s chocolate smeared on our lips and chin, we “cheeeeeseeee!!” for my dad’s photographs. The sand, still stuck in our hair, tickles our scalps, and falls onto the floor, preparing to get uncomfortably stuck to the bottom of our feet. The sound of distorted and indistinct voices of kids playing basketball down the street, accompanied by the neighbors who are also on their porch, conversing about sports or politics, each clasping a beer or wine glass in their hand, play through my ears. Everyone has a different concept of peace, but simply sitting on that front porch, with wood in the fire pit and a s’mores stick in hand, is my family’s idea of perfect relaxation.

(Editor’s Note: Isabella Donovan is a 16-year-old high school student who sent this piece in for your enjoyment.)

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