“He explained why he was paying his visit so early in the season; the family had gone to the seaside for Easter; the cook was doing spring-cleaning, on board wages, with special instructions to clear out the mice.”
From “The Tale of Johnny Town-Mouse” by Beatrix Potter
The last time we went to the library, I checked out a Beatrix Potter collection for June. She loves these stories, even though the language is old-fashioned and goes right over her head. The appeal might be the detailed illustrations of little animals doing all matter of interesting things. Anyway, you probably know “The Tale of Johnny Town-Mouse” even if you think you don’t. It’s Potter’s take on the City Mouse and the Country Mouse story. The country mouse accidentally travels to the town in a hamper of vegetables and is miserable there. He manages to return home and then one of his town acquaintances comes to visit him via the hamper, and he too is miserable and returns to town as soon as he can. The moral is “One place suits one person, another place suits another person.” Though we’ve lived in the Washington metropolitan area for going on eighteen years now, Beth sometimes refers to herself as “a country mouse” (albeit less frequently than she used to) because she grew up in a smaller town.
I’m not really a country mouse or a city mouse. I am a beach mouse. When I am not at the beach, which is, alas, most of the time, I am often fantasizing about the next time we will go. We spent Easter weekend in Rehoboth. We wanted a get-away during Noah’s spring break and Beth had Good Friday off work so it was convenient. We also wanted to tour houses and pick one to rent for our beach week in mid-July.
Rehoboth was all decked out for Easter. At the boardwalk Grotto Pizza (http://www.grottopizza.com/) where we had dinner on Friday there were garlands of bunnies and chicks across the windows. The store windows were filled with more bunnies, chicks and eggs. The most elaborate display was probably at Dolles (http://www.dolles-ibachs.com/) where a two-foot tall mechanical chick kept hatching out of its egg, along with other mobile, fuzzy, Easter-themed statuary.
Saturday morning we toured houses. I’d emailed our requirements to the realtor earlier in the week and she’d found two houses that met them. After viewing the houses online, Beth decided we could spend a little more money to get closer to the beach and to get a house with wireless internet. We found two more properties we wanted to see. Only two of the four houses were available for viewing as the other two had off-season tenants. The house I’d liked best in the online pictures seemed less charming in person. The other one was has soaring ceilings in the living and dining area, a lot of windows, a very open, inviting design and two screened porches. It was bit more than we wanted to spend and only had three bedrooms (we’re expecting my mom, Beth’s mom and her Aunt Carole for part or all the week) but we figured out where we could sleep everyone and it was closer to the beach (which appealed to me) and had wireless internet (which appealed to Beth), so our choice seemed clear. I was glad to have the decision made and to find such a nice house because we’ve usually taken care of this earlier in the year and I was a little afraid everything would be booked.
It was rainy and cold most of the day Saturday and clear but windy and even colder on Sunday, so we didn’t spend as much time on the beach as I would have liked. I got in several five to ten minute stints, however, with one or both kids. We made the most of these short trips: we built and destroyed sand castles and pressed the duck mold into the wet sand to make a duck family and filled and dumped the dump truck. June removed beach-grass splinters from the paws of imaginary kittens and Noah and I waded into the water in our rubber boots.
I also took June for a long stroll on the boardwalk, where it was less windy, and I enjoyed an almost hour-long solo walk on the beach late Saturday afternoon. It had stopped raining by this time but dark clouds hung over the sea and the wind whipped my hair around my face. The surf was rough and dramatic, especially around the rock jetties where I stood, as far out as I dared, with the water churning around my ankles. As I was leaving the beach, I picked up a little peach-colored spiral shell fragment and tucked it into my pocket. When I came back to the hotel room, Beth asked how the beach was and I told her it was glorious.
The rest of the time we wandered around town, ate out, swam in the hotel pool and hung out in our room, which was on the fifth floor of the hotel and had a very decent side view of the beach. I spent a lot of time staring out the window while Beth worked on her laptop, Noah read and June played with the wide variety of plastic toys we were issued at check-in.
This morning, Easter morning, we were awoken at 6:25 by what sounded like a chorus and organ music. It was sunrise service at the Bandstand (http://www.rehobothbandstand.com/) on Rehoboth Avenue one block over. There were breaks between the music, first short ones, then a longer one, probably for the sermon, but just when we thought it was over, the music started up again. After this had been going on for a while, I got up and peered out our window. We were high up enough to have a pretty good view of the crowd, which spilled over onto the sidewalks. I can’t say any of us were thrilled about this wake-up call, especially since someone in a nearby room had a television blaring until 1:00 a.m. But I wasn’t too cranky either, since Noah was already awake when it started and he probably would have woken us soon and it was a joyful noise. Even though I am not a Christian, I do find the Easter story moving. I also feel like if we are going to dye eggs and buy chocolate in bunny and egg shapes—celebrating the pagan-derived spring-and-fertility aspects of the holiday– we need to be tolerant of more conventional celebrations, even if they take place at the crack of dawn. That’s my take anyway. I think Beth may have felt differently.
During the sermon break, we tried to get back to sleep but it was useless, so when June noticed the two chocolate bunnies sitting up on the table around 6:55, I brought them over and read the note Beth had penned the night before:
Dear Noah and June,
These are for you. Glad I found you! Xander and Matthew [our cats] told me you were here. I also hid some baskets of goodies at your house.
Soon the kids were snuggling in bed eating their Easter bunnies, a white chocolate one for Noah and milk chocolate for June. After breakfast we left Beth at Café a Go-Go (http://delaware.metromix.com/restaurants/american/cafe-a-go-go-rehoboth-beach/121443/content) with a café con leche, a copy of The New Yorker and strict instructions to stay at least a half hour. (I think she violated the spirit of the agreement by checking her voice mail and discovering a work crisis in progress but she was gone long enough that I believe she did read her magazine for the specified time. At least that is what I am choosing to believe.)
The kids and I spent a little time on the beach while she was at the coffee shop. The sun was brilliant on the water, turning different parts of it blue, green and golden brown. After ten minutes June needed a diaper change and wanted to go back to the hotel. As we left the boardwalk, June, apparently having forgotten she wanted to leave, asked, “Why are we leaving the beach and boardwalk?” Why indeed, I wondered.
Driving home, en route to our egg hunt and the mad coming-home rush of unpacking and housecleaning and grocery shopping and our egg salad dinner, we made a quick stop on Route 1 for Beth to buy herself a new pair of Crocs. Noah noticed the miniature golf course attached to the store and wanted to play. I told him maybe someone would take him this summer. We’ll have plenty of adults. “Why don’t we live near the beach?” he asked. I think he was more motivated by mini-golf than the grandeur of nature because he’d greeted my statement on the beach earlier that day that “This is the best place in the world” with skepticism. In fact, he replied that in front of a computer is the best place in the world. Alas, I am raising a Philistine child.
Anyway, I replied, “I don’t know. It’s sad, isn’t it?” Takoma Park is home and I love many, many things about it. But I’ve never been at the beach long enough to pine for home and wait with anticipation for the next vegetable hamper to transport me there. I suspect I never will.