I had been to the beach with friends and family every year but when I was almost twenty years old I had the notion to live there for a summer. I had been living on my own for a year but wanted a new surrounding to call home and Rehoboth Beach was everything I was looking for.
When I arrived I found a place to stay at a campground. I lived in a camper with two bunk beds, a small kitchen, living room and a bathroom that had running water. It wasn’t the most ideal of situations but I loved it. Well, I loved everything but the spiders. On occasion I’d even see a snake, though snakes never bothered me. The beach was only a few miles away but my campground was immersed in trees, a small forest. I had the best of both worlds. I met people who came every year for the summer, some had boats docked down the road and would leave for the afternoon only to return to grill what they caught for the day.
Unfortunately I arrived too late in the season, arriving at the end of June when most of the jobs were taken. The coveted job at the pizzeria Grotto’s on the boardwalk was booked solid. If I wanted a job there I should have applied long before beach season started. I wanted to work on the boardwalk but ended up finding a waitressing job at a crab shack next to the place I was staying. It was huge with fine dining on the inside and a deck on the outside. It was always busy. I never saw so many crabs in my life. As much as I enjoyed the job I made every excuse not to walk through the kitchen and see the crabs trying to escape the boiling pots. They were piled on top of one another, over-flowing and the ones on top were always trying to get out. I tried not to think about it when I had to serve them. Every Friday and Saturday night was band night. A local band would come in and play their music. Guests would be drinking and dancing and I would look in awe. Men would flirt with me. I never knew how to act or how to respond; most of the time I pretended I didn’t notice and walk away.
When I wasn’t working I would be at the beach getting a suntan or browsing the stores on the boardwalk. The stores were endless. The gallery became my go to store. I would pick out pictures I wanted to buy when I saved enough money. If I was feeling rich that day I would go into the exclusive area of the boardwalk that had specialty stores and imagine I could buy anything from the pricy clothes to expensive pottery or gifts. Of course the boardwalk had the typical stores too; a taffy store, jewelry, t-shirts galore and all types of restaurants whether you wanted breakfast or a full course meal. Once a week I would go to the used bookstore and browse the endless selections.
When my shift was over at the Crab Shack I would head back down to the beach and listen to the water. I never noticed the signs about not sitting on the lifeguard stand. Only when I was already up there with my cousin looking out at the ocean and the police officer flashed his light at me did I finally get the message. I was fined and sentenced to court. If I failed to show up there would be an arrest warrant and I would go to jail. Who knew? I was early for court. The judge took one look at me and realized I wasn’t the criminal type and let me go; my first and last brush with the law.
I only stayed a summer and never went back, at least not to live. I had planned on going every year but life always got in the way and there was always something else I was involved in. I have now set my sights on staying for a summer on the Amalfi Coast. But I never forgot my time there. I grew in ways I wouldn’t have had I stayed in my home town in Pennsylvania. I met people from all walks of life, such as the gay culture Rehoboth has embraced, and I learned to depend on myself. I had already lived on my own but there’s something about living away from the place you grew up and having to think on your feet when the going gets tough that I never experienced before, and at the beach I had to make it on my own. It was the first time I felt like I was in charge of my life and I liked it.