The Pull-Out Couch: Shore Motel Memories Change for New Mom

Baby’s first trip down the Shore awakens her mom’s memories of sand, surf and pesky mattress springs.

On the beach in Avalon, Sana discovers sand and makes her first marks on the seascape using some of her favorite toys.
Photo by Amanda Staab.

When I was a kid, going down the Shore never meant cruising boardwalks, riding roller coasters or eating funnel cakes. Mostly it meant spending time on the beach with my family—but one of my fondest memories is our motel room’s pull-out couch.

Every summer, we would pile into my father’s navy-blue Ford Bronco and drive the 3 1/2 hours from Ramsey to Stone Harbor, where we stayed in a one-bedroom efficiency at the Seaward Motel. The bedroom had two queen-size beds: one for my parents, the other for my two sisters. As the youngest, I was bumped to the pull-out couch adjacent to the kitchenette.

The couch was creaky and its springs poked through the thin mattress. But it had advantages. Not only could I spread out on a bed double the size of mine at home, but I could stay up long after everyone else had retreated to the bedroom and overload on something my parents had long forbidden: cable TV. I watched all the MTV and Nick at Night I could handle, sometimes falling asleep to I Love Lucy reruns. I could also sneak a snack any time I liked or keep the bathroom light burning all night long.

The couch was close to the front window, and I was occasionally awakened by other guests playing cards and getting drunk on the motel’s patio. But I wasn’t bothered. The commotion amused me, and lying awake, I would try to guess what game they were playing and decipher exactly what they were talking about.

I didn’t realize how much the pull-out couch had shaped my childhood memories until I returned to the Shore last summer with my husband, Nishi, and our year-old daughter, Sana. Instead of Stone Harbor, we decided to try neighboring Avalon and booked a one-bedroom unit at Concord Suites.

Of course it had a pull-out couch. We opened it so Sana could spread out with her coloring books, which she joyfully did. Nishi and I planned to sleep in the bedroom, but after chasing Sana around all day, coaxing her to the beach, then trying to keep her from eating the sand, all three of us passed out on the pull-out soon after sunset.

That night, I was stirred from slumber by two small hands gently slapping my arm. When I finally got Sana back to sleep, I worried that the noise from the people outside would disturb her. But I was the one who had trouble dozing off, and there were those pesky springs again.

The next morning, Sana awoke refreshed and happy. The couch seemed to work better for her than her crib, so that is where all three of us slept the next two nights. It didn’t matter that I was sore and tired all day—I was experiencing the Shore from a new perspective, digging in the sand alongside my daughter and holding her as she dipped her toes into the ocean for the first time.

This summer, when we head back to the beach, Nishi and I again plan to sleep in an actual bed. But I think Sana might opt for the pull-out couch.

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