One question I’ve been asked on numerous occasions since unleashing my Book Baby on the world is – Is Rehoboth a real place?
Yes it is and it’s one of my favourite places on earth.
I first visited the small city in the exceedingly hot summer of 1980, during my second family holiday to visit family in the USA. I was only ten years old but the town captured my heart. Little did I know then but it would be twenty four years before I’d be back.
The first time I’d visited the States, I’d been four years old and we’d spent a few days near Ocean City, NJ. Among other memories that stood out for me from that first trip were memories of walking in the cold sand under the boardwalk and of walking on the boardwalk itself. Aged ten, I was keen to see the ocean and the boardwalk again.
During that first trip to Rehoboth, we stayed in a rented house for a week, splitting our beach time between Dewey Beach and Rehoboth Beach. My recollections of the beach near the town of Dewey Beach are that it was beautiful but it reeked of dead smelly horseshoe crabs. There were piles of them at the back of the beach. The smell was awful! My memories of Rehoboth smell much sweeter!
The town beach at Rehoboth was fabulous to the ten year old me. I loved playing in the ocean swell, “jumping waves” with my aunt, and later in the day, visiting the shops up on the boardwalk. A couple of times we came back into town after dinner and walked the boardwalk as the sun set.
Memories of salt water taffy and fudge and of T-shirt shops selling souvenirs and hermit crabs filled my beach dreams for over twenty years.
Roll on until 2004 when I returned to America to visit my relatives but this time I arrived as an adult (well, as close as I’m going to get) and the mother of two small children. I made a special request to visit Rehoboth while we were there.
My memories from 1980 were of clear blue skies and blistering sun. When I returned to town in July 2004, the skies were over cast. By the time my cousin had parked his beaten up old van (there’s a whole story about that van that I’ll save for another day) and sourced the obligatory quarters for the parking meter (yes- they still have parking meters in the centre of town), the heavens had opened and we were all soaked to the skin by the time we sprinted into Hooters for lunch.
It didn’t matter to me in the slightest. Even under the black rain clouds, Rehoboth still looked exactly as it had in my mind for all those years. Whew!
The rain had eased up by the time we’d finished lunch so we strolled down the main avenue and along the boardwalk. Bliss! All the shops looked and felt the same, right down to the hermit crabs in their brightly coloured shells.
Since then it’s become a family pilgrimage, when we are lucky enough to be in the States, to spend a day at the beach then come into town for dinner and a stroll along the boardwalk.
Even the drive down from Philadelphia, down the Coastal Highway, to reach Rehoboth Beach and nearby Cape Henlopen has been a ritual. Dover Downs race track is the first major sign, signalling that you are past the half way point in the journey. Each of us has our own personal landmark that we watch out for as we head towards the ocean. There are numerous, now familiar, landmarks apart from Dover Downs. There’s a particular house with its own hangar and, I believe, its own airstrip, there’s a surf-style shop miles outside town selling all sorts of beach inflatables, there’s the first road sign that says “Beaches”, there’s the sign that says Slaughter Beach (that one always makes me smile. I need to visit there someday) then there’s the Rehoboth Beach water tower.
I can see each and every one of these in my mind’s eye as I type this even though it’s been three years since my last visit. Too long!
A day at the shore usually means hitting the sand south of the town where my cousin can drive his truck down onto the sand (after letting a lot of the air out of the tyres), finding a good spot to sunbathe, fish and play in the ocean swell. A good spot to watch for dolphins. After a day in the sun, we pile into the truck and, after re-inflating the tyres, drive up to the bath house a couple of miles up the road for a shower. The bath house is all part of the experience! Sand- filled luke-warm showers. Black biting flies and mosquitos by the dozen and screaming, whining, tired, sun-burnt kids. It’s a great facility but definitely not one of the highlights of the day! However, it gets all the sand, well most of it, washed out the bits that sand should never be in and freshens you up so you look semi-respectable when you arrive in town.
Every time there’s the same scramble for quarters…you’d think we’d learn! Somehow, between us all, we always find enough. At Boy Child’s request, it’s pizza for dinner with a bowl of cheese fries on the side – sinfully delicious! As for the pizza – well it’s worth travelling 3000 miles for!
I try to steal a few moments down on the beach, imprinting the place in my mind until next time round.
We walk the boardwalk, play tourist in and out of the shops, visit the arcade then head back to the truck as the sun disappears and the quarters run out.
Happy days and precious memories.
My high school English teacher once said to me that one way to make my stories more believable and realistic was to write about places and things that were close to my heart.
When it came to choosing a location for my Silver Lake series, there only ever was one choice – Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.
Book Baby aka Stronger Within – book one in the Silver Lake series can be found at-