Well, so there wasn’t actually a dock nearby, but the bay was just outside our back door. And we sat by it. A lot.
We chose Lewes this year for exactly that – the softer waves and tidal pulls of the bay, while the youngsters, my nieces, still adjust to the water. And the Delaware Bay delivered just that, and a sand bar to boot – perfect wading and splashing water for the two shorties (as I came to call the nieces).
Growing up a Rehoboth summer kid, I didn’t know much about Lewes – other than that it was the next town over, further north and west along Routes 1 and 9 – until the past few years. When we discovered a(muse) and Hari Cameron, I fell in love with the coffee they served – Notting Hill – that was (and is still) sold at the Lewes Bake Shoppe on 2nd Street, the apparent “main drag” in downtown Lewes; and so began my first brief exploration of downtown Lewes. A few more quick trips into Lewes would lead me back to Biblion Books (and back to the coffee shop of course), but otherwise, Lewes would, for me, remain the otherwise forgotten “First Town in the First State” just up the highway, just another exit as I wound my way north on 1 to find my way east on 16, back to reality. Until this summer, at least.
We had a house on the bay side of Bay Avenue, where the back door (or the front, as the owner held) led straight out to two blue Adirondack chairs atop a dune and a set of stairs leading straight down to the (unguarded) beach, ideal for toting small children (and our plethora of chairs, toys, and towels) to and from the water, and ideal for an adult retreat to reign on high from the dune above.
We learned that the easiest walkable distraction was the 2 Dips Ice Cream shop, in what looked to be a reformed auto garage. I said to myself both times we went – get the child size; but who are we kidding? Their salty caramel cookies and creme was too good not to get a full scoop (with sprinkles, naturally). Otherwise, anything we’d want to do – especially with kids – required the family Subaru. These included afternoon trips to Funland and other stops in downtown Rehoboth, of course; a stop at the Crooked Hammock, a brewery-turned-restaurant with a very decent menu and a play area in the back; and a stop at Mr. P’s Pizza, a nondescript joint in a strip mall on Route 9 – a place full of locals, eating in and carrying out, where the tablecloths were checkered, the dough was perfect, the garlic was plentiful, and the single slices hilariously (perhaps snarkily) stop at 2:59 p.m. on school days. The Subaru also brought us back into downtown Lewes once or twice, specifically to King’s Homemade Ice Cream (also on 2nd Street), a retro, nostalgic, legit ice cream parlor. Each trip brought us past the old houses with their elaborate porches and gazebos, with rocking chairs out front, almost inviting us for a long sit and a glass of lemonade.
It is not my beloved Rehoboth, but that is not to say that there isn’t a quiet charm to Lewes; quite the opposite, in fact. It almost has a nostalgic, old-timey feel to it, a coastal town from a bygone era. It has a quieter vibe than downtown Rehoboth, and feels less crowded, less frenetic; it is almost…New England-esque, with Mid-Atlantic characteristics. It is a fine town to be an auntie – with less worrisome tides, and enough to keep kids occupied, at least within reasonable driving distance, and of course ample escapes down the highway for the non-parents in their own cars.
But my heart will always be tugged by the real Atlantic waves further south on Route 1. Maybe that will be in the shorties’ cards again someday in the future; I’ll certainly still see them on my own. And in the meantime, perhaps I could make a little room for a sandbar, a slice of different pizza, and a (probably too-large) scoop of ice cream at a picnic table outside an old garage.