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My Cape May Past, Present and Future

The Atlantic Ocean is the only body of water I have ever known. Family trips to Cape May have filled my summer vacation fantasies from before I was even born. Cape May has been my tropical destination for 21 years. And I have no desire to change locations.

I will be forever grateful that my aunt and uncle told my parents about a quaint little Victorian town, called Cape May back in 1992. My dad does not like to fly (a trait he has passed on to me too) and prefers to take vacations to which he can drive. So my parents set out to explore Cape May, not knowing that they would be spending the next 21 years vacationing here.

Growing up with the anticipation of summers in Cape May has thrilled me for as long as I can remember. We have rented a house on Stockton Avenue, a condo in the Morning Star Villa (my earliest memories of Cape May are from there), a few hotels and finally two houses on Sewell Avenue.

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My younger brother, Michael, and I on the boardwalk. Circa 2003.

Having to squeeze in all my favorite activities in a two week span was not easy, but with a whole year to plan my vacation, it was possible. I counted down the days until the day before we left for Cape May.

I love every aspect about my trips to Cape May. I enjoy packing my bags, and loading up the car. Even the tedious waiting for my parents to pack the roof rack the morning we were leaving. I looked forward to eating fried chicken at our favorite spot on the ride up and probably seeing dolphins on the Cape May Lewes Ferry.

When we would stop at the rental company to pick up the house keys, I knew my vacation in Cape May had truly begun. And I could not have been more ecstatic the year that I was old enough to hold on to one of the house keys.

Coming to Cape May each summer was always a mystery. I would wonder if my favorite stores and restaurants were still in business. I longed to sit on the beach with a good book in hand and a plastic baggie to hold my shells and beach glass.

Visiting with my neighbors has also been such an important part of my summers. I kept in touch with them throughout the year and kept them up to date with my schooling. I was even lucky enough to meet, become friends and stay in touch the girl next door, who shared the same birthday one year apart from me.

Fast forward many years, I never thought I would be blessed enough to skip stopping at the rental company and drive all the way up from Virginia with a house key in my pocket. In 2012, our dreams of owning a house in Cape May became real. The Cool Cat Cottage on Sewell Avenue is now my actual dream home.

Suddenly, I did not have to fit my entire vacation into two weeks, because I now had six weeks to spend at my leisure. I was able to channel my love for Cape May into writing and interning for Cape May Magazine.

I even got to come up every few months to the house. Soon we were celebrating Passover, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and my birthday at our home here. Swiftly, my special summer trips to Cape May lost their sparkling appeal. I still anticipated my trips to visit, but as the visits became more frequent, Cape May became slightly less special. I could not quite place my finger on why exactly.

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Quiet Thanksgiving 2014 on Sewell Avenue.

Maybe my vacations were not as special because I did not have to condense beach trips, mini golf, shopping, antiquing, baking and running around town into just 14 days. I did not have to spend all year planning the perfect two weeks in Cape May. I could now skip going to the beach every day, and not feel like I was wasting time. Even now, six weeks’ worth of beach visits and fun is not enough time in Cape May.

Now, with one year left of college – I plan to move here after graduation and begin my journalism career. How will living in Cape May full-time compare to a few weeks’ vacation? I don’t want to take living in Cape May for granted.

I never thought there would be a day where I would be telling people that my plans to move to Cape May might actually be a reality. I have wanted to live here for as long as I have been vacationing here. And presumably soon, that wish will become reality.

A repeat renter. Return vacationer. Vacationer local? I’m not sure what spending 21 years here and then moving here will make me. But I cannot wait to find out!

Connect with Rachel on Twitter @capemayrachel.