Heading East! Part 3: Ocean Oasis

Although Ocean City, Maryland is known for its great beaches and fabulously tacky entertaining boardwalk, that’s not why I love spending time there every summer. Don’t get me wrong, I love the the beach, people watching and scoping out crazy T-shirts. (Our favorite of late stated boldly “My Pen is Huge”. Tasteful, eh? You should be there during Firefighter Appreciation Week or Senior Week when it’s crawling with drunk 18 year-olds. T-shirt-spotting takes on a whole new level of madness during theme weeks.) And everyone needs a pet hermit crab, Thrasher’s French Fries (with salt and vinegar), mini-golf and a funnel cake or two. Right?

The real reason I try to go back every year is to stay with Aunt Dottie and spend really great, high-quality time with the family. Aunt Dottie is my mother’s godmother. She’s 94 and still lives on her own in her adorable little house on 12th Street, the Ocean Oasis. It’s little slice of old Ocean City, before the high rise hotels and drunken teenagers came on the scene. Mom’s oldest (time, not age) friend Kay lives a few blocks away and we spend hours walking the boards in the morning and after dinner. It’s a special place and holds many, many years of memories for all of us.

We all love this porch! It gets great afternoon breezes. The Boardwalk and the beach are located right between the two buildings in the photo. If you look closely, you can see Jenny coming down the back stairs of her gray house on the left. She is a long-time neighbor and friend who helps Aunt Dottie out a lot these days. She's also a great gardener.

Aunt Dottie’s pride and joy is her garden.  Uncle Hal started it ages ago, and she’s maintained it since he passed away. I think it’s getting harder for Dottie to keep it up every year, but it still brings her joy. The garden is always a riot of color, with whimsical little statues and art peppered throughout. I think her favorites are the gnomes. She’s had them repainted at least once over the years and she loves their little spot in the back of the garden by the clothesline. One year a couple of kids stole them and drew mustaches with black marker across their faces. Aunt Dottie was distraught and they were missing for a number of weeks. Eventually, they returned, mustaches and all. They’ve been known to move during the night, too. You know, to the top of the shed or behind a bush. You have to keep a close eye on them.

A bit of garden wisdom: "The kiss of the sun for pardon. The song of the birds for mirth. One is nearest God's heart in a garden than anywhere else on Earth."

A gnome party.


Always colorful, with a bit of whimsy.

These days, Aunt Dottie’s place is just a little postage stamp of land surrounded by parking lots, condos and hotels. Her house could use some serious TLC and everyone worries about Dottie navigating the steps to her upstairs apartment. (She’s not too worried – she just goes down them backwards…) Nothing changes at Dottie’s – same furniture, same decor, even the same magazines and novels on the shelves (pretty much everything dates from the late 1960’s to the 1980’s- Suzanne Sommer’s autobiography anyone? It’s a classic).

The front entryway, and the best place to view the flowers. I love walking through that gate.

Aunt Dottie and the kids. This is one for the books.

Aunt Dottie is a character. She tells stories, jokes (some off-color) and has opinions about everything. She’s still sharp as a tack and will tell you proudly that she’s a graduate of Sweet Briar College and was the only one of her friends to attend college in the 1920’s. She has always volunteered in local hospitals and is an active member of her church. I think that she’s struggling with getting old – not because she’s scared of death, but rather because her body is slowing down while her mind isn’t. She even joked that she wished her mind would go, so that she wouldn’t be so aware of how old and tired her body is… I think she was only partly joking. She wasn’t being morbid – that’s just Dottie.

Aunt Dottie is probably saying something really funny in this photo. She's like that.

Seeing us off until next year…

I am so glad that she was able to meet Ryan. We love her more than you can imagine.



2 Responses to “Heading East! Part 3: Ocean Oasis”

  1. Kristin says:

    What a sweet portrait! Makes me miss all the good parts of Ocean City. Good way of stating it…that it’s ‘old’ Ocean City. How lucky you guys were to spend time with her!

  2. Colleen says:

    I’m lovin’ the blog, Suz. Thanks for taking the time to keep it up. It’s great to get to meet Aunt Dottie and see a little bit of Ocean City. I may now have to get some gnomes. What cute cousins! Love you guys.

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