I want to die in Coronado. I came to this conclusion on Monday morning after dropping my boys off at Fiddler’s Cove for a week long sailing camp. When my oldest son, Andrew, stepped out of the car, he took a deep breath in and enthusiastically declared “This is the greatest smell in the world!”
“What smell?” my daughter wanted to know
“The smell of salt water” he told her.
I want to die with that smell in the air.
Coronado reminds me of the faded photos of Coney Island my mom keeps in a cardboard box in her basement linen closet. When I was a kid, she would tell me stories about summer days filled with the ocean. I could picture my grandfather’s slacks pulled up above his knees and my grandmother in a freshly pressed floral dress. I envision my mother’s red curly hair tucked away in a swimmers cap, her long freckled legs splashing in the Atlantic. I see my aunt Rose tagging along eagerly in her shadow, while her oldest sister, Esther, sunbathed, and Anna, her middle sister bravely dove into the waves. I picture my uncles off on the board walk sneaking cigarettes and trolling for girls.
I imagine those were the moments in which my bickering grandparents loved each other the most. For an afternoon they left the world behind and took in the ocean.
The stories of Coney Island are the ones mostly easily pried from my mother. She always smiles in the retelling of her summer adventures.
In my mind Coronado is Coney Island. Orange Avenue heavy with tourists and picture-perfect moments is the tourist trap of my mother’s youth. The hotel Del, old and stoic, everything unique and dusty, nothing glaringly strip-mallish, the park with its gazebo, the old fashion dinners, and coffee shops, are the images I associate with my mother’s youth. The farmer tanned tourists in their newly purchased t-shirts, the people on beach cruisers, and the cars traveling at a snails pace without a care in the world.
I want to spend the rest of my life across the big blue bridge with its polite summer scent and welcoming picket fenced beach bungalows. From the top of the Coronado Bay Bridge the skyline of San Diego glimmers close enough to touch but far enough to tuck comfortably away from view.
My boys have fallen in love with the Island. On Tuesday morning just before entering Fiddler’s cove, we see a group of military men in full fatigues running on the beach, assault rifles on their hips helmets on their heads.
“Look!” Andrew shouts frantically from the backseat. “They have guns!”
“This is the coolest town in the world,” Jake yells back.
They are both grinning.
When I pick them up every afternoon they are brimming with stories of maneuvering sail boats, capsizing, learning the fine art of bolen knots, and playing king of the hill on overturned kayaks. On Wednesday, they managed a 16 foot sail boot alone with three other boys while there instructor rode alongside in a small boat creating pseudo waves. They sailed all the way to the bridge and back.
I am envious of their childhood. I can see them living in Coronado, sailing on the weekends, riding vintage Schwinn bicycles to their elementary school, sitting on picnic blankets in the park while eating ice cream in waffle cones.
By Wednesday evening I am on craigslist checking the cost of three bedroom homes in Coronado. There is not a single home under the price of $800,000. Within a matter of minutes my two day dream of the easy life on Coronado Island is crushed. There is a reason why all the cars on Orange Avenue are BMWs, and Jags. I recover quickly, realizing that Coronado will be my children’s Coney Island. Someday they will whimsically recount their summer learning to sail on the island to their own children.