Monday, March 20, 2006

Goodbye to winter—and daddy

Here's a picture of Higbee Beach on the Delaware Bay. It's just a short drive from our cottage in Villas. I'm seeing out the final days of winter here alone. The kitchen's almost complete, but the sink and dishwasher aren't hooked up so I have to wash dishes in the bathroom lavatory. That keeps me from wanting to make elaborate meals, so I'm buying lots of frozen dinners. Last night it was a tasty frozen deep-dish pizza; tonight I'm having shepherd's pie, which seems like a reasonable choice, especially when paired with a nice glass of red wine. In this short culinary experiment I've come to prefer Stouffers (their lasagne is killer) but they don't make shepherd's pie I guess.

As always, my time down here in Cape May County amazes me by how New Jersey/not New Jersey the place is. In fact, it's below the Mason-Dixon line, I'm told. There are fields and farms and woods interspersed with housing tracts and strip malls. Every so often on the two-lane highways that wind through the peninsula you'll come across a proud old Jersey farmhouse, often converted into a bed and breakfast, antique shop or an attorney's office. These houses attest to the fact that people have been down on this spit of land for a long time, and that even then life was good.

I drove down to Cape May for a bottle of wine at the chi-chi liquor store there. The selection at the liquor store here in Villas really, really bites; I've never seen stranger choices. Of course, you'd expect that: Cape May is more upscale and houses start at about a million dollars. Villas is where people have vinyl picket fences and nautical-motif landscaping with dock pilings, plastic seashells and miniature lighthouses in their front yards. Folks actually live in Villas; they summer in Cape May.

In the old seaside town the last winter winds blew in off the ocean. I was struck by the emptiness, all the dark Victorian houses lumbering over the narrow sidestreets waiting for the summer when they'll be reopened. The sidewalks will be full of people coming to and from the beach. Then all the restaurants and souvenir shops will be open and bustling, and you can get a decent capuccino again.

Tomorrow is the first day of Spring, and I'm ready as I've ever been. It's also the day my dad died more than 20 years ago, so it carries a bittersweet feeling for me. He passed like the winter, inevitably and quietly.



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