The other day I opened my email ten days late and found the following note from the Judith, the woman from whom we’d rented a cottage at Dewey Beach each year for a decade:
This is so hard for me to say - we have decided to stop renting the cottage. For the past two years we have been trying to find a way to continue renting, but with our new schedules and locations, it is proving very difficult to keep up with all the duties and responsibilities required to rent Dewey. I wanted to wait until the end of the season to let everyone know - and give you all plenty of time to look for new places.
We’d discovered the cottage at 109 Saulsbury Street when our friend Shirley invited us down for a few days. We fell in love with the house, and Dewey Beach, and Rehoboth. The next year we rented the house the week after Shirley. For years our routine was thus: Shirley would rent the house for 2 weeks in May, we’d rent the week after her, then we’d go down early and Shirley would stay late so our visits overlapped.
The first year we went, we drove to Cape May and took the Cape May Ferry to Rehoboth. Stanley was queasy from the boat’s motion, and I, dizzy from watching the boat rushing through the water that seem to part to make way for our passage, then closed in our wake; it occurred to me that the ocean could just as easily turn on us, closing around and over us. I held the dogs’ leashes tighter.
The next year, and every year after that, we drove directly to Dewey.
Reading over her note, I was immeasurably sad. While we were only there for a week each spring, the Cottage felt like home. It’s simple wooden furniture and bright pastels, so different from our own formal, chaotic home, reminded us each day that we were on vacation.
From the beach at Dewey we saw ships and whales, and, once, a beached baby shark, stiff and sad; from the beach at Dewey, we helped countless horseshoe crabs, stranded by the receding tide, back to their ocean home.
We walked around Silver Lake and dreamed off a house on the water. We ate at Bethany Blues and Just In Thyme, and shopped at Elegant Slumming and the Converse Outlet store, and slept in a too-small bed with the dogs, and forgot, for a week, our real lives.
It was at the cottage we assumed we’d stay when we took our nephew, Max, to see the ocean and feel sand between his toes for the first time.
In nearly a decade, we’d only missed one Spring, and that was in 2009 when, like a lot of Americans, in the aftershock of THE GREAT RECESSION, we had neither jobs nor money for other than life’s necessities such as mortgage, food, and Coco’s cardiologist.
|Coco on the beach in 2010|
When we knew we were going to lose Coco the only thing I prayed for was that she would get to go to the beach one last time. And she did. But between her age, her arthritis, and her heart, she couldn't navigate the sand very well so we only took her to the beach once that Spring. After that, each day, we took her to Sunset Beach, on the bay, where, despite having been carried there, she would collapse, in exhaustion and wonder, at the water’s edge. Occasionally the water of the bay would lap at her toes. She would rise with ancient grace, shake herself indignantly and retreat a few feet, before settling back into her state of dazed consciousness.
When we would take Toby down to the big beach she was content to lay in the sun on the Cottage’s screened porch and watch the world go by.
Last year we got to take Riley to the beach for the first time. It was enchanting watching him discover the ocean, and learn how to dash away from the waves when they rolled in.
There will be other houses and other beaches, I know, but the cottage at 109 Saulsbury Street will remain a treasured memory. And I remain thankful that Judith saw fit to lend us her home for so many years.
The Mama Black Widow stories, "The Christmas Present," and "Black & Ugly," are now available.