Family, plentiful food, football, chatter, dogs, good but cool weather, soothing ocean and lack of crowds—what’s not to like about Thanksgiving week in Rehoboth, DE?
We have established a tradition, one that is maybe five-years-old. Traditions have to start somewhere.
The big, old house, wonderfully located, separated by a road from the beach and Atlantic Ocean, has become a home, populated by memories of anniversaries and holiday celebrations.
This is not the first, nor the last time I will feel compelled by the muse of reflection to write about an experience devoid of tension or obligation (not completely).
One caveat: untrained and mostly inept, I am the designated turkey-bird carver. I had a mishap this year. I cut myself. I said nothing as I carved and tried to stanch the blood. I was surrounded by bosses who would have sidelined me had they known about my minor wound.
No blood landed on the unsuspecting turkey. I completed my task, pleased with my secrecy. The meal was delicious. The turkey slices were chunkier than preferred due to my momentary lack of hand mobility. The grandchildren were well-behaved; their father permitted them to exit quickly, only to return for dessert.
My bloody mishap was discovered when it came time to clean up. My wife became alarmed at the sight of my finger and summarily dismissed me from the kitchen. My daughter efficiently assumed the nursing duties, demanding I accept her ministrations. As usual, she ignored my stubbornness.
As I write this, I am staring at two Labrador Retrievers, resting in their beds after exerting little effort during their pampered stay at the beach. One, unfortunately, is mostly disabled, able to walk with difficulty. The other (ours) is mellow. She endures, rather than seeks exercise. Some have remarked about her weight. I empathize with her—and sometimes give her human food.
Harmony or lack thereof marks most families. It’s unavoidable at times; humans just clash. Though a full participant in conversation, I also observe the dynamic created by very different personalities. The underlying element is strength, softened by compassion and generosity of spirit.
Adaptation is imperative, though not always easy; in some ways, the grandchildren provide a leavening effect. Meeting their needs and keeping peace require constant attention from parents, grandparents and an aunt.
The house is ideal for family togetherness and even quiet separateness. It seems to summon memories and conversation about my deceased in-laws and raucous times fueled by libation and food. While I don’t believe in ghosts, I do believe in the calming intervention of spirit.
Laughter minimizes the pain of loss.
Politics was not a frequent subject. Perhaps it’s because we mostly share the same opinions and sentiments. I realize this is not true of many families; avoidance of sensitive subjects becomes a priority, if not a necessity.
Similar political viewpoints are beneficial to family harmony, I suppose. Peace and tranquility prevail.
Our last day was Black Friday. The commercial onslaught leading to Christmas begins its sales-driven frenzy. I applaud capitalism. On the day after Thanksgiving, however, I’m content to remain bound to my temporary quarters.
For me, it’s Resistance Friday. I refuse to engage in the shopping mayhem—despite the reduced prices.
I witnessed one sight on Black Friday that struck me as crazy and gutsy: a man arrived on the beach, removed all but his bathing suit, jumped into the cold ocean, immediately climbed out and put back on his clothes. He seemed nonplussed.
I took pictures of this ocean dipper. I thought family members wouldn’t believe me without evidence. For a moment, at least, he declared his independence from Rehoboth’s endless outlet malls.
Christmas awaits us in three weeks. I wonder if the intrepid ocean dipper will celebrate by testing his mettle again in the cold Atlantic Ocean.
Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.