Love Letter to Rehoboth

I just returned from a week in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.

The beach in the fall, you say?

Why? No swimming, no sunbathing.

Yes, and yes.

But miles of beautiful wind-tossed beach, a nearly empty boardwalk, crowd-free shops and delightfully line-free restaurants.

Rehoboth in the fall: quiet peace.

Not that I’ve only visited this lovely Delaware beach town in the fall. My relationship with Rehoboth goes back twenty years. For many seasons, our church youth group camped in nearby Cape Henlopen for a retreat. On Friday evening, the entire group descended on Rehoboth for a night of fun, food, and rides. Along to help that year, I was at once stunned and surprised by the beauty of this beach resort. Having grown up in New Jersey, I was hardly aware that the Delaware shore existed. After an evening of dining on delicious cheese steaks and shopping in the many charming alcoves, I was determined to return to Rehoboth.

And return I did, almost every year, and in every season.

There were the fall weekends with old college friends, renting rooms in bed and breakfasts and biking on the boardwalk.

There were weeks spent in glorious condominiums overlooking the Atlantic, and days spent beneath colorful umbrellas on sandy beaches.

There were lovely oceanfront stays in a Victorian hotel, long walks on the beach, and lingering strolls through the charming town.

There were family vacations when grandkids dipped their toes in the cold water for the first time and created sand castles decorated with shells and seaweed.

There was the time I broke my toe the day before our departure, and I still managed to make it to the beach, my toe enclosed in a plastic bag.

And there are the delicious restaurants- too many and diverse to name, they range from the lowly Mom and Pop diner to the exclusive top drawer establishment. Boardwalk fries, ice cream, popcorn and salt water taffy- yes!  But also those serving upscale seafood, Chinese, Thai, Italian and Spanish cuisine. We love them all!

Year round events pack the Rehoboth calendar, from summer concerts and fireworks to home tours, art displays, and jazz shows, to the Sea Witch Festival, Christmas tree lighting and parades.

Known as “The Nation’s Summer Capital”, Rehoboth traces its beginning to the late 19th century, when a beach camp for the Methodist Episcopal Church was founded to provide summer religious gatherings. The source for the name, Rehoboth, comes from the Bible (Genesis 26:22). In early Hebrew, Rehoboth meant “broad places.”

That year, a post office was established, the first of several hotels were built, and the original Rehoboth boardwalk was constructed. A railroad later brought more and more visitors to the beach, including many from Washington, D.C.  Today, sun worshippers swell Rehoboth’s summer population to over 25,000.

A seaside resort, historic in nature, beautiful in all seasons- this is my Rehoboth. Coming there is like coming home.

 

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Ode to Autumn

Leaves, golden bright

Cast a shadow in the night

Make a lacy pattern on the porch.

The moon above, a silver torch.

And all the world, unmoving there

As autumn nips the chilly air.

Rose Bateman Buscarini

 

Autumn! Always my favorite season.

Autumn means the beautifully changing leaves, a kaleidoscope of color on the hillsides.

Autumn means apples, dripping with sweet caramel and salty nuts; plates of corn candy, orange and brown; and pitchers of apple cider, cold and tangy.

Autumn means pumpkins and scarecrows and vivid displays of chrysanthemums in hues of orange, yellow, and red.

And, of course, autumn means Halloween! Witches, black cats, and trick-or-treaters!

In the suburban New Jersey of my childhood, Halloween trick-or-treating was serious business. Attired in homemade costumes, we roamed the streets, not returning home until our bags were full to bursting. One of my favorite houses served up delicious candy apples wrapped in crisp cellophane, tied with a crimson bow, and huge popcorn balls covered with sugary caramel. Others offered candy bars- full-sized ones, mind you, not the now popular miniature kind.

After arriving home, bedraggled and costumes akimbo, my brother and I would stack up the candy in neat piles in a friendly competition of ” Who got more?”

Oh, those Hershey and Mars bars, Three Musketeers, Snickers, and Mary Janes!

Why are we intrigued by all things Halloween? Is it the moody, mysterious weather?

The fear of the unknown? Or do we just like to be scared?

From youth, I have been attracted to creepy books and horror films. I was awed by the Wicked Witch and her legion of flying monkeys in “The Wizard of Oz”, and horrified by the plight of Mia Farrow, who gives birth to the Anti-Christ in “Rosemary’s Baby.”

In “Stir of Echoes”, Kevin Bacon is haunted by the ghost of a murdered girl entombed in his basement, and in Stephen King’s “The Dead Zone”, a young teacher is the victim of a car crash, only to awaken from a coma with the ability to foresee the future. In King’s masterpiece, “‘Salem’s Lot”, the devil takes over the townspeople, turning them into vampires.  As a high school English teacher, I loved covering the tales of Edgar Allen Poe:

“The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Cask of Amontillado”; and his famous poem, “The Raven.”

Where did Halloween get its start? A time of both celebration and superstition, Halloween is thought to have originated with the ancient Celts some 5,000 years ago. At the festival of Samhain, residents would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off roaming ghosts. Halloween is the evening before the Christian holy day of All Saint’s Day, held November 1, thus giving the holiday on October 31 the full name of All Hallow’s Eve.

Halloween has become one of the biggest holidays in America, with retail spending projected to be 9.1 billion in 2017, a new record. The average household will spend $83.00 on the purchase of candy alone, while the most popular costumes for kids will range from Superheroes to Star Wars characters to that old standby, a witch.

The fascination with Halloween and witches is not just for the young. A friend hosts an annual Witch Party, complete with “spirits” and crystal ball readings. Celebrants are required to wear a witch hat, but most attend dressed in full witch regalia, sporting garish makeup, and wearing gowns and shawls in dizzying shades of black and purple.

There is an award for the most original witchy portrayal.

Communities also get into the Halloween spirit. Our local York County Rail Trail hosts an annual Pumpkin Walk, a half-mile pathway lit with a gorgeous array of decorated and lighted hand-carved pumpkins.

As long as humans ponder the beauty of life and the mystery of death, they will be intrigued by autumn.

Have a fabulous fall!

Vega Magic

It was a bright orange, 4 cylinder Chevy Vega with black checked interior and it belonged to my future husband. Bought brand new in the spring of 1974, it cost $2650.00. A sporty four-on-the-floor, it burned oil like crazy. Not the greatest mileage either, but at least gas only cost 55 cents a gallon.

It was his pride and joy, and coordinated with his snazzy platform shoes, plaid pants, and longish over-the-collar hair. He was a dapper fellow, a cool dude.

We had been dating for about a year and he had been visiting me for the holidays at my parent’s house.

It was getting late on that Christmas night and I tried to talk him into staying until morning, but, being the dedicated type, he insisted he had to get back to Baltimore to work the next morning.

A few hugs and kisses later, he was on his way on the dark, circuitous route that led from

my parent’s place to the interstate. No lights lit his way on that rural Pennsylvania road, but he sailed along, listening to Paul McCartney belt out “Junior’s Farm.” “Let’s go, let’s go, take me down to Junior’s Farm!”

Suddenly, he hit a 90 degree turn in the road, the warning signs obscured in the dark.

Wham! Down into a ditch the Vega went, hitting a couple of boulders, momentarily tipping the car on its side. Crawling to safety through the passenger door, he smelled for gas before high tailing it out of  there to a nearby house to make some calls. No cell phones back in those days!

He was luckily and almost miraculously unscathed ( he was, after all, destined to become my husband, the father of two, and the grandpa of three), but the car was not.

Bent bumper and dented roof, the state police were called, and the Vega towed away.

When he called my house to inform us of the accident, my Dad and I came to get him. He spent Christmas night with us, after all.

My Dad was a kind-hearted soul, and perhaps sensing in him son-in-law material, lent said boyfriend one of our cars to drive back to Baltimore the next day.

Adventures with the orange Vega were not yet over. Early in our marriage, it was to tangle with a deer coming home through the Poconos in the fall of ’77.

Result: one mangled grill and one dead deer.

He was to keep the orange Vega for a few more years. It was never a great car, but looking back over the prism of years, still his first, magic Vega.

Summer Sojourns

“We must go ahead and see for ourselves.”- Jacques Cousteau

The sun is out, and the road is open. Time for some summer sojourns!

Our first excursion was across the state of Pennsylvania to Cleveland, Ohio, the home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Founded in 1983 to recognize those who have had a significant impact on rock and roll, this beautiful facility features exhibits and information on hundreds of rock’s famous stars, from Elvis Presley to the Beatles to the Rolling Stones to Simon and Garfunkel to the Doors to Elton John to Crosby, Stills and Nash, to Eric Clapton to Neil Diamond to Chicago- the list runs the gamut of years and almost plays like a soundtrack of my youth. Funny how music can bring you back to a time period so readily. Mesmerized by the Beatles exhibit, I recall my childhood room plastered with posters of my heartthrob, Paul McCartney. We were fortunate to catch him in concert a few years back- in his ’70’s and still rocking it!

A stop on our way home took us to Shanksville, the site of the crash of United Airlines Flight 93 on 9/11. Forty-four people lost their lives: 33 passengers, 2 pilots, 5 flight attendants, and 4 hijackers. Somber and beautiful, the quiet fields bespoke the bravery of our American heroes on that fateful day.

Beach time next!

The gorgeous warm temperatures only added to the pleasures of Bethany Beach, Delaware. A family-oriented beach with a quieter vibe, Bethany’s soft fluffy sand, crashing waves and blue vistas entice the senses and calm the soul.

Beach chairs and colorful umbrellas in dizzying shades of green, orange, and yellow, savory boardwalk fries, and ice cream evoke memories of bygone beach communities.

What a dream to own a beach house there!

Yet, as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end, so was homeward bound to the peace and comfort that it affords, until wanderlust beckons us to our next road trip!

 

Flower Power

I didn’t pen any words today

Instead I planted flowers

Instead of writing in the cool, still house

Nature filled my hours

 

Potting soil and watering cans

Geraniums and asters

Garden gloves and daffodils

In shades of alabaster

 

Bird songs and gentle breeze

Clouds and sudden showers

Grimy hands and creaky knees

A sense of nature’s power

 

Brilliant hues and fragrant scent

In intricate profusion

A mystery of frame and form

A magical illusion

 

I didn’t pen any words today

Instead I planted flowers

Overshadowing the written word

Nature overpowers

Visits to the Park

Some of the warmest and most cherished memories of my childhood center around visits to New York City to stay with my Aunt Alice. As I remember, Aunt Alice was a dear, charming lady in her late fifties. Plump and grey-haired, she always wore red lipstick, rouge, and nail polish.

She was a generous woman who laughed a lot despite the many hardships she had endured. To my child’s eye, she was glamorous and full of life.

Never married, she nonetheless loved children, and, fortunately, all of her sisters had married, providing her with numerous nieces and nephews upon whom she could lavish her affections.

Aunt Alice took her vacation during Easter week so she could take us on a springtime tour of the city. One of our daytime excursions would invariably be to the Central Park Zoo.

The day chosen for the park visit somehow managed to be one of the first warm, sunny spring days that touch the soul and imagination with joy. I can still see the long rows of red and yellow tulips, the young green buds on the trees. I can still hear the shouting laughter of children playing on the large boulders in one section of the park.

We girls were dressed in our Easter finery: puffy cotton dresses with Peter Pan collars, white anklets with lacy trim, and white Mary Janes. The boys sported slacks and white shirts that refused to stay tucked, and suit jackets that would be tossed over their shoulders as soon as the day warmed. Thus attired, we made our way along the sidewalks, past old men sitting on park benches soaking up the early spring sunshine, past crowds of laughing children. We toured the animal houses, fed peanuts to the chimps, clapped our hands at the seal’s antics, then collapsed, exhausted, with drippy ice cream cones at concession stand picnic benches.

My new shoes would hurt me, not being broken in properly. One of us would always get lost, if only for a short moment of panic. We usually managed to overeat enough hot dogs, cracker jacks, and ice cream pops that we couldn’t eat the sensible meal of pot roast waiting for us back at our grandmother’s apartment.

I couldn’t realize then, that decades later, I would think of those Eastery spring park days with such tenderness and fond recall. Still, I am convinced that Aunt Alice, gone now for many years, somehow knows that I remember and is pleased.

Birthday Blessings

“You say it’s your birthday? We’re gonna have a good time. I’m glad it’s your birthday! Happy birthday to you!”

Thanks to the Beatles from the White Album, 1968!

Yes, I just passed my birthday.

My daughter surprised me with an impromptu visit. There she was at the front door, armed with a gorgeous bouquet of flowers and impossibly beautiful and decadent birthday cake. My husband, son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren soon arrived.

A family celebration ensued, complete with wine and Italian take-out. The grandkids ran amok, and I realized how blessed I am.

No fair to ask my age! Suffice it to say that I remember in detail events from decades long past.

In the tumultuous ’60’s , my school years were punctuated by the heart-rendering assassinations of JFK, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Bobby Kennedy.

In the disco era of the ’70’s, college, marriage, career, and a first born child had my head spinning.

By the Reagan era of the ’80’s, I was so busy with child birth, child rearing, and homemaking that I hardly had time to notice what was going on in the world!

As Clinton was elected, it was back to the career, and as the ’90’s morphed into the 2000’s, we were faced with the horror of 9/11.

Those years also brought the sadness and anguish of dealing with the aging and passing of dear parents.

And now, retirement and the joys of grand parenting.

“Sunrise, sunset,

Swiftly fly the years,

One season following another,

Laden with happiness, and tears.”

(lyrics from “Fiddler on the Roof”, 1964 Broadway musical, and 1971 film)

Although the seasons ahead are a mystery, I know my life has been a blessing.

Happy birthday to me.