Change of Seasons
Time is funny, isn’t it? Remember being a kid? The school year seemed interminable. Now the days tumble past. How can it be September already, I wonder? What happened to June, July, and August?
September always has a faintly nostalgic feel to it for me. Somehow the summer is still fresh in our minds, and yet it has moved, as it always does, inexorably into the past, into memory. In recent years, whenever I see a clear blue September sky, images of the falling World Trade Towers come to mind, and yet this month is also a time of harvest, and a time for celebrating the bounty of the summer season.
As summer 2012 fades slowly into history, I think about what will distinguish it from all the other summers we’ve spent in Rehoboth Beach. Opening that door, however, only brings the memories of past summers pushing me back in time.
I remember the first time I came to Rehoboth Beach. Our friend Joe McMahon had invited us share a beach house. It was 1981; Steve and I had only been together for a few years at the time. Steve had been here before; I never had. In the spring of that year we drove over to look for a beach house, and ended up renting on Norfolk Street—right next door to the Christian Science Church at Norfolk and Bayard. The Blue Moon opened that summer, but at first it didn’t have the bar, and we used to spend happy hour playing croquet on the church lawn and making frozen daiquiris in the driveway.
To be truthful, there was something about that first trip to Rehoboth that just felt right to me—like a key sliding into the lock for which it was made. From that point on, our lives became Rehoboth centered. Even when we moved from Washington to New York in the mid ‘80s, we never severed connections with Rehoboth. Fire Island beckoned, for sure, but Rehoboth was home long before we settled here fulltime in 1990.
Looking back now, it’s hard not to feel destiny in our relationship with this place. Sundance celebrated its 25th Anniversary on Labor Day weekend, and we’re almost finished with the 22nd season of CAMP Rehoboth and of publishing Letters from CAMP Rehoboth. Over the course of the last three decades, we’ve all experienced the full scope of the AIDS epidemic—the confusion in the early years, the horrible loss of life in the late ‘80s and mid ‘90s, the constant battle for safer sex and AIDS education that continues today. We buried our friends, picked up the pieces, and vowed to keep fighting. In these last few years, we’ve made huge strides in the state of Delaware on LGBT issues, including non-discrimination and civil unions.
I’ve expressed my enthusiasm for living in a resort community on many occasions over the past 20 years, and it’s worth saying again. Life in Rehoboth Beach offers us a remarkable place—both the charm and friendliness of a small town, and the sophistication of the big East Coast cities with whom we connect.
I’ve always said that Rehoboth is a crossroads—a place where we can connect to people we would not otherwise have the opportunity to meet. That ability to connect to resources in other places has allowed CAMP Rehoboth to flourish in ways that would not be possible in other communities of our size.
Sometime over the course of this past summer, I started to pay closer attention to the tourists in town. Watching them enjoy our community reminded me of the way I feel when I’m on vacation. Seeing our home through the eyes of others made me appreciate it all the more.
Perhaps it was the silver anniversary of Sundance, but something about this summer seems especially poignant to me. Sundance was a big success this year—both the auction and the dance. I have to confess that the dance is what it has always been about for me. Something happens when we all come together on the dance floor to celebrate the end of another summer season, and this year when the music ended, a larger than usual crowd remained on the dance floor clapping and cheering and begging for more.
Earlier in the evening, Paul Frene had danced up to me to say hello, and to tell me that a friend from New York visiting with them for the weekend had marveled at an event that could bring men and women, gay and straight, young and old together on the same dance floor.
That’s our strength, I believe. That’s why CAMP Rehoboth has been successful. That’s why so many people devote so much time to CAMP Rehoboth, to Sundance, to the growing arts community in our town, to all the organizations who work to make this a better place for all people. Together we have created a welcoming place, an open place, a good place to live and to visit.
Yes, September makes me nostalgic, and it happens instantly for me. The Monday of Labor Day weekend is a grueling one for those of us involved in the breakdown of Sundance. What took a week to build all comes down in a day. When Steve and I and all the members of our crew finally make it home and sit down to rest, we are bruised and battered and exhausted. We’re also deeply satisfied at a job well done. It’s always in that moment that I know for sure that the summer is over, and that the time has come to turn our attention in a new direction.
I love life in our little resort. I love this town when it is bustling with people and everywhere we turn is a familiar face. I love it in September too, when life settles down to a different pace and I know that we have made it through another summer season.
Thank goodness for changing seasons. It keeps life interesting.
Murray Archibald, CAMP Co-founder and President of the Board of Directors of CAMP Rehoboth, is an artist in Rehoboth Beach. Photos: Sundance 5K Awards; Silver Sundance decor. (Photo by Leslie Sinclair).