Settled in for Thanksgiving in a home long rented by our family fronting the Atlantic Ocean in Rehoboth Beach, Del., I thought about another tranquil beach more than 3,600 miles away in Normandy, France. It was the scene of furious combat in June 1944.
The contrast between the two Atlantic beaches is stark. One conveys a violent history; the other offers serenity and a refuge during the summer months for hordes of tourists naturally oblivious to its opposite across the sea.
Rehoboth Beach has dealt with weather disturbances, such as hurricanes and nor’easters. But no foreign invasions. Just south of Rehoboth, however, is Dewey Beach, dotted to its south with watch towers to defend the Delaware coastline against a feared German invasion during World War II.
Normandy’s most famous beach was code-named Omaha Beach, where deadly fighting occurred on D-Day, June 6, 1944. A German bunker remains. A monument honoring the famed 29th infantry Division (Blue and Gray) is a prominent landmark on the French beach. The surprised Allied invasion of Normandy loosened Adolph Hitler’s iron grip Europe.
The wondrous beach that my family and I see every day during our week-long visit is peaceful and inviting. In fact, it shields us from the constant barrage of disturbing news, the tidal wave of fearsome events. Awakening to a lovely sunrise and sonorous waves is mesmerizing.
For a brief time, we hide from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, inflation, political attacks, global warming, chaotic campuses coping with antisemitism, mass murders, health care deficits—we flee temporarily from the agonizing diet of gut-wrenching media reports. We bury our heads in the sand.
Our vacation concerns are basic. Meals become our preoccupation. Recreational shopping excites us. Grandchildren grab our attention. Family stories are abundant. Restocking the fireplace with wood is a favorite pastime. Sports on TV relax us.
Still, the sandy coast, buffeted by pleasantly frothy waves, is a natural centerpiece of our escape to Rehoboth Beach. It exercises a gravitational pull on us, physically and emotionally. It offers a brief getaway.
I never tire of capturing images intrinsic to an ocean resort on my IPhone. Redundancy does not interfere with my photography. I try to capture the ocean, the scattering of beach strollers, the dunes and the sunrises.
The effort to create an unforgettable photo on a mobile device thrills me. I understand my limitations.
Civility rules in our favorite home away from home. We opt for patience with our individual idiosyncrasies. We succeed for the most part. While families are not perfect, they bring comfort and familiarity. Warmth of feeling is predominant, with some minor discordance.
In two days, I will savor a delectable turkey leg, along with succulent sides. Family members know fully well my obsessive taste for the meaty legs. I cringe when my son-in-law and grandson claim a turkey limb. We do not buy three-legged turkeys; instead, we choose unattached legs to join the sumptuous meal.
As Thanksgiving approaches in two days, I feel thankful and fearful. I feel grateful for my family and friends; they provide life-giving, emotional and invaluable sustenance. I fret about the cruelty, hatred and incivility in our world. I pray for stability, kindness and respect.
A smidgeon of optimism is also on the table as an intangible ingredient.
To loyal and engaged readers, I hope your Thanksgiving is joyful, a respite from the onslaught of awfulness that engulfs our fractured earth.
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. After 44 years in Easton, Howard and his wife, Liz, moved in November 2020 to Annapolis, where they live with Toby, a King Charles Cavalier Spaniel who has no regal bearing, just a mellow, enticing disposition.