While watching city, state and Special Improvement District (CRDA) employees on the Boardwalk one day as they prepared for the upcoming tourist season, I was reminded that residents of Atlantic City also must begin planning.
When I was a little girl, people’s houses were actually rearranged to accommodate those who would be coming to work from Memorial Day until Labor Day every summer.
“Three months to hurry and nine months to worry” was the slogan for locals who looked forward to having work and making as much money as possible during this short period.
Today, of course, our city is a year-round resort, but activity does pick up during summer thanks to our gorgeous beaches, outdoor concerts, the Air Show and other special seasonal events.
At home, we don’t have to plan so much for tourists, but for the sometimes, endless stream of friends and relatives who will visit during the summer months. It’s one of those things you get used to when you live in a resort area.
Preparing for summer means cleaning up our yards and dusting off the porch furniture, because we love sitting outside enjoying that salty A.C. breeze in the evenings after a long day at the beach.
Sometimes, it means re-painting old porches or furniture, and other times we finally have to accept that certain things must be discarded altogether. We can’t make them last even one more summer.
We need to check our grills and make sure they’re still worth using, as well as beach chairs, umbrellas and outdoor tents. Ocean water and sand can take their toll on these favorites from year to year.
Hopefully, this year’s mild winter has increased the lifetime for some items.
Inside our homes, how many people can we sleep at one time? Are there enough linens and towels for everyone, blankets for our cool summer nights? Do we need to buy any new toys to help keep visiting children busy at the beach or cookout? Do we need to buy or replace any cookout supplies or stock up on paper products? Whoever drops in, we want them to feel welcomed and have a good time.
Some family members know that they are always welcome and can visit almost anytime they like, but then there are the others, as well as those friends who don’t seem all that near and dear until summer arrives and they don’t want to spend money staying at a hotel.
The first group knows how to act: they call ahead, ask if they can bring anything, may even bring their own linens and towels, don’t overstay their welcome, bring enough money to do whatever it is they want to do for entertainment and would dare not expect you to foot the bill.
They understand that you may not be off from work during their entire visit, and if you must work, they may even have dinner prepared when you get home. They appreciate your hospitality and don’t take it for granted. You don’t mind giving them a key to your place; you trust them without a doubt. They can come and go as they please.
The others are those who for some reason you can’t seem to turn down, but every year after they leave, you find yourself planning how to tell them “no” the next time they call.
Even though you are close to them, they make themselves entirely too comfortable. They call when they’re on the A.C. Expressway and bring unannounced people with them, maybe their newest “significant other” who already seems shady to you.
Upon arrival, they announce that they won’t be any bother, that you can go on with your week as usual, that they only need a place to lay their heads, because they are going to be at the beach, Boardwalk and casinos all day. They may even be true to their word, at least for a couple of days.
Then, it begins.
Their children are trampling sand all through your house, no matter how many times you’ve told them to rinse at the beach or leave anything full of sand outside. You get home from work and they ask you, ”What’s for dinner tonight?” After they bathe their children and get them ready for bed, they ask if you don’t mind if they go to a casino for an hour or so; the kids will be asleep anyway.
Of course, they are not back in an hour and the kids have been up twice asking for "Mommy." By now, you are counting: one more day and they’ll be gone. One more day comes and as usual, they suggest that they have got to try winning all that money back from the blackjack game they played last night.
Otherwise, they announce, they are going to have to borrow money from you for gas and tolls, but they promise to send it back as soon as they return home. They know this condition will prompt you to say “yes” they can stay one more day. They’ve already asked you for money for their children when the ice cream truck came around last evening.
This is when you begin faulting yourself. Why didn’t I tell them “no” this year? Why do I keep thinking they will change? I brought this on myself. Why should I feel obligated to say “yes” simply because they’re family or because we’ve been friends since high school or because they used to be married to my cousin’s uncle? Am I only doing this, because I think I’ll need to stay with them the next time I visit Alexandria? I’ve talked to them about all this.
What is it they don’t understand?
Every year, there are those whom you swear will never be able to stay with you again. Every year, you let them come visit again. It’s part of what we do as families, as friends, as people who are used to living in a resort area.
Turiya S.A. Raheem was born and raised in Atlantic City. Currently an English teacher at Atlantic Cape Community College, she loves to describe her neighborhood as “the other Atlantic City,” because it was not the casino-resort mecca most people know today. It was a place with a “cozy, down-home feeling” as she describes in her 2010 book, Growing Up in the Other Atlantic City: Wash’s and the Northside.
Read more of 'The Other Atlantic City' columns by clicking here.
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