Before the Beach: Weekend to Tuesday
Three days before Thanksgiving, North got into the baking and pastry arts program at Johnson and Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island. This is currently their first-choice school, though they haven’t decided for sure and are keeping their options open until they hear from the rest of their schools.
When they got the notification, they were on their way home from Winter One Act auditions. North will be directing a one-act play in early January as their senior project. There was a flurry of excited texts between North, Beth, and me, but Beth had to wait a day to give North in-person congratulations because she was out of town. She’d taken a four-day trip to visit a friend in Morgantown and her mother, who was turning eighty, in Wheeling.
While Beth was gone, the rest of us watched two horror movies (A Quiet Place 2, and Lights Out), plus Noah and North started a tv series about Korean zombies, Noah attended a cast party for the Scooby Doo movie and North attended and reviewed a production of MacBeth for Cappies. Remembering all the kid-friendly dinners I used to make when the kids were little and Beth was travelling for work, I made dinners I knew would still be popular (vegetarian chicken, broccoli, and spinach fettucine with alfredo sauce one night, causing Noah to exclaim “Pasta!” because I hardly ever make it anymore, and tacos another night because that’s one of North’s favorite dinners.)
On Tuesday, North and I were busy in the kitchen. I made Beth’s birthday cake, chocolate with coffee frosting, which is the cake I most often make for her and which she’d requested this year. North made almond flour cornbread for Beth’s birthday eve dinner, and they also made pumpkin pudding because we had some leftover pumpkin puree from another project they wanted to use up.
Beth returned home Tuesday evening, later than she intended because car trouble kept her in Wheeling until late afternoon. We were all happy and a little keyed up to be re-united and because we were leaving again for the beach the following day for our annual Thanksgiving trip.
Birthday Eve: Wednesday
We arrived at the beach house around 5:15 p.m. the next day. Beth headed right back out to get some groceries, while I put away the groceries we’d brought, distributed linens to all the bedrooms, and made our bed.
We had canned chili with the cornbread for dinner. Because Beth’s birthday was on Thanksgiving this year, we’d decided to have her cake on Wednesday night to space out the festivities. We had it after dinner, but we saved the presents for the real day. We’d picked up a new numeral seven candle at a Dairy Queen on the drive to the beach because when I packed the candles from our (frequently re-used) stash, I noticed the wick on the seven looked broken. We all agreed the new one looked more like a one that a seven, and in fact when I put the photo on Facebook, someone commented “Happy 51st” and Beth set the record straight and then I commented that she can pass for fifty-one.
After dinner, Beth and I took a walk on the boardwalk. I invited the kids to come with us, and North said, “It’s not going to be romantic?” but they didn’t come, and it was kind of romantic to be walking in the dark, just the two of us, listening to the sound of the waves crashing on the sand.
After our walk, we watched A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and The Mayflower Voyagers, a re-telling of the Pilgrim story with Peanuts characters. This last one is kind of obscure and getting hard to find online, possibly because it’s a rather outdated, white-washed version of the story. Beth joked that “the woke mob” was conspiring to get rid of it, but we eventually found it.
Thanksgiving was a pleasant, low-key day. I went for a solo walk on the beach in the morning and again with North after lunch. In between those walks, as soon as everyone was home and awake at the same time, Beth opened her presents. Even though she’d asked for a gift certificate for a skate shop so she could buy herself new ice skates, she seemed surprised that we’d all pitched in (with assists from my mother and sister) to get one big enough to cover the cost of the skates and not just contribute toward it. The kids and I also got her a high-end hot chocolate mix, some orange-chocolate bark, a box of chocolates, and two dark chocolate bars. (Beth is serious about chocolate.) She was very pleased with everything.
After the presents were opened, we all set to work making our main Thanksgiving dinner table decorations, turkeys made from apples, toothpicks, raisins, dried cranberries, and olives. I have been making these since I was a kid and along with a little glass turkey North bought for Beth’s birthday eight years ago and some gourds leftover from our pumpkin patch expedition, they graced our table another year. I am thankful for the continuity they represent—of family, love, and tradition.
The kids and I are reading The Golden Spoon—a murder mystery that takes place on the set of a baking competition based on The Great British Baking Show—together and I read to them for an hour in the afternoon. Late in the afternoon I laid down to rest and surprised myself by falling asleep almost at once and sleeping deeply for almost an hour. That felt luxurious.
Everyone was responsible for a cooking a dish or two for Thanksgiving dinner, so people were in and out of the kitchen all day—Beth made mashed potatoes and mushroom gravy, I did the Brussels sprouts, Noah assembled the stuffing, and North was responsible for the cranberry sauce, and basting the tofurkey roast. North also whipped cream for the pies. We had six little tarts— three pecan, two apple, and one pumpkin—mostly from the farmers’ market, to give us maximum flavor choices without buying three whole pies. The cream was surprisingly hard to find, we’d struck out at a few stores until it occurred to North that we could try ordering a cup full of heavy cream from the Starbucks around the corner from the house and it worked.
After dinner and dishes, we took a family walk on the boardwalk, my third visit to the beach or boardwalk that day, and then we initiated this year’s Christmas specials viewing with A Charlie Brown Christmas.
I was up early Friday morning, and when I looked at my weather app and saw the sun had only risen three minutes earlier, I decided to hurry down to the beach to see if I could catch the tail end of the sunrise. It took twenty-five minutes to get dressed and walk down there (the house was several long blocks from the beach) but when I got there, the sun was still fiery orange and there was a trail of molten gold running down the ocean and wet sand. It only lasted about five minutes, but I stayed another hour, walking and sitting and walking again, and there was still some pink lingering in the clouds when I left. I love the quality of early morning light on the beach in the late fall and early winter, the way there are shadows clearly delineated in each little depression in the sand.
I saw two dolphins making their way north and a surfer. It was a middle-aged man in a wetsuit, and he stood on the beach for a long time before he entered the water. I wondered if he was waiting for the right kind of wave or if he was trying to psych himself up to get in the cold water. Given how quickly he was in and out, I decided it was the latter, but as someone who has never been immersed in the ocean in Delaware in November (and never will be), I give him props for riding even one wave.
Back at the house, I had a small breakfast to tide me over until we went out to Egg. I am largely adjusted to having diabetes—it’s been almost two years and three months since I was diagnosed and I’ve figured out some hacks—but I still have moments of wishing I could eat things I probably shouldn’t and the pumpkin praline French toast at Egg spurs those feelings in me. I had frittata instead and watched sadly as someone at the next table ate what I really wanted.
Christmas shopping was next. When we tell people we go Christmas shopping in Rehoboth over Thanksgiving weekend, people always think we mean the outlets, but we shop downtown, which is busier than an average day, but never mobbed. It’s a very sane Black Friday shopping experience.
The kids and I hit BrowseAbout Books, the Christmas store, the tea and spice shop, Candy Kitchen, and other stores. Beth split off from us, so I don’t know where she went. I was relatively productive, and didn’t do any more shopping after lunch, opting instead for reading with the kids. In the mid-afternoon, we did our Christmas card photo shoot on the beach. On the way back to the car, even though it was cold, we picked up a pumpkin-cinnamon frozen custard and split it four ways. I was craving that flavor and I reasoned it was only going to get colder later in the day.
Our next event was the holiday sing-along and Christmas tree lighting in the early evening. As Beth was parking and the kids and I were approaching the bandstand where a chorus was singing “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas,” I commented, “It is,” gesturing at all the decorations on Rehoboth Avenue.
Once we’d met up with Beth, we moved through the crowd, relocating a few times, trying to find a space where more people were singing, and fewer people were having loud conversations that made it hard to hear the music. Beth said she thought more people used to sing at this event and I agreed. We all sang, though, “Frosty the Snowman,” “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “All I Want for Christmas,” etc. North even valiantly tried to sing “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas,” even though they don’t know many of the lyrics. (Neither do I.) Right before seven, the countdown began and then the tree lit up, its multicolored lights and big star joining the light of the moon in the night sky.
After it was over, Beth went to fetch the car while the rest of us went to Grotto to pick up the pizza, stromboli, and mozzarella sticks we’d ordered ahead of time. We all met up, drove home, and ate the food in front of the tv. That night we watched The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, Frosty the Snowman (the song got me in the mood), and Frosty Returns.
Small Business Saturday
The next morning after we checked out of the house, I did some solo shopping and took a short walk on the boardwalk and beach before we all met up for lunch. The day was cold and windy, and the beach was covered in seafoam. I saw a boy standing on the wet sand shoveling and at first, I thought he was shoveling foam. It was sand, but the foam was so deep, you could have shoveled it.
We tried a new (to us) restaurant that’s in the space where a Greene Turtle used to be. I used to eat at Greene Turtle more for the ocean view than for the food—and Beth and Noah refused to eat there—so we didn’t mind the change in ownership. Overall, it seems to be an improvement it terms of pleasing everyone, though North thought the pizza was too saucy. It was very festively decorated for Christmas, with lights, and presents suspended from the ceiling, elves sitting up on the beams, and a tree near the restrooms. But my favorite part was the Santa hats on the chair backs.
The kids and I went back to the beach after lunch so they could stand barefoot in twenty-three frigid waves. What can I say? It’s a goodbye-to-the-beach tradition. The number of waves is always the last two digits of the year. I don’t do it barefoot in the fall or winter, though. I wear rain boots. A little water went over the tops and my socks got damp and sandy, but I didn’t mind much. It just meant I got to take a little bit of the beach home with me.