As soon as April rolls around, my parents are off to the beach. They make the three hour drive to their house in South Bethany every weekend from about April until October. After thirty plus years on the road, my mother is tired of the commute. (She's not fond of sand or sun on her body, or what water and wind can do to her hair, but my father loves it all. He comes from a long line of beach lovers going all the way back to his father's roots in Greece. You know those families that send photo cards of themselves all dressed in white posed at sunset on the beach? Well here's our family's version:
One problem for my mother is the way my father drives. He is a big proponent of relaxing with one finger on the wheel and cruise control at his feet. When the exit for Route 50 pops up up, he is usually in the far left lane, crosses four lanes of 495 and maybe cuts off a dump truck to make the ramp. My mother is rigid with fear, but the process doesn't seem to bother him a bit.
My father is 90, and he didn't wear a seat belt until he was about 85 when he was pulled over near Denton for speeding in his red BMW convertible. The cop was so astonished at Dad's birthday- April 1916- that he dropped the speeding charge. He did give him a ticket for not wearing a belt, and that's what got my father. Not the years of my mother nagging, not the safety warnings, but the $25 ticket.
Holly's just after the Bridge or Jimmy's Grill in Bridgeville is a regular pit stop. My mother likes that. She gets to get out of the car and have a soft shell crab sandwich on white bread. Short Brothers is also on their beat. It is one of the tiniest farm stands on 404. No advance signs, no wind gadgets, it just appears near the Delaware line. Diane, who is the ever present farmer's wife, knows my whole family and will report on one member to another as we go by. She will pick you out the best corn or a good melon if you ask.
My parents have been going to the Eastern Shore since there was ferry instead of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Back then they couldn't afford to spend the night and would pack up three sandy kids at the end of the day and come back home.
Much later, when I was around, we stayed at the Del-mar in Ocean City, MD. It was the kind of hotel with rocking chairs on the double decker porch. We slept in saggy beds and my brother and I had to cling to the edges to keep from landing together in the middle. My brother remembers the time when our Papou set a small rubber replica of dog do-do on the floor in the dining room. A waitress shrieked when she spotted it, and ran in the back to get a bus boy. When they returned, my grandfather had already slipped the offending object back into his pocket. He was a hoot.
My clearest memory was not so funny. I remember my father got a huge splinter in his foot while walking on the boardwalk. He had to go to the hospital in Salisbury. I never went bare foot after that one.
My parents have had a beach house of their own since the late 1960s when ocean front property was cheap and risky. They were among the first to build in South Bethany, but had to rent it out for many summers. We went almost every weekend in the winter, but it was usually gray and cold with a biting wind. None of my friends wanted to come with me after a while.
Nowadays my mother stays off beach, and occupies herself with planning all the meals and cooking. She also loves the cocktail hour. (or two.) which ay contribute to how my parents stay married through all these years going to the beach.