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“Black and white shot of a woman sitting alone in the seashore watching the still ocean” by Jean Gerber on Unsplash

I left my husband in 2010. We had been married six years. We had two small children. People told me it was a mistake.

A few loyal friends supported me as I took steps to create a new life for myself and my children.

I had no money. I was working two part-time jobs and living on credit cards. I had a rented room and a five year old minivan.

I made the choice to leave, so I lived with that decision every day.

Later, when I got an apartment, the money problem got worse. I always paid my rent, but there wasn’t much money left over for anything else.

Unbelievably, even with my pittance of a salary, I couldn’t qualify for food stamps. The kids and I ate tuna fish for a year. It was so bad that when my destitute neighbor went to the food bank, she’d tell them she had eight people living with her, and she’d get a little extra for me.

I was broke. I had no money to take them anywhere special.

But then I realized: I have the beach.

Delaware is a coastal state. It has something like thirty beaches with points of entry up and down the state. Augustine, Woodland, Pickering, Bethany, Rehoboth, and so on. Most of Delaware’s beaches have no beach fee.

All I needed was half a tank of gas, a picnic lunch (tuna fish, of course), some industrial strength bug spray, and a few towels to give the kids a great day.

At the beach, the kids could run and I’d encourage them to explore to their hearts’ content.

At the beach, we rescued stranded horseshoe crabs.

At the beach, we found a rogue Maryland blue crab — my five-year-old daughter ran from it, screaming, “Mom, come see this HORRIBLE THING!”

At the beach, we were chased by green head flies that looked like they were on steroids.

At the beach, we collected sea glass and driftwood and rocks, which I used to make jewelry and decorate my apartment.

At the beach, I took the most beautiful photos of my children. These remain some of my most treasured souvenirs.

At the beach, my kids never knew I was one step away from bankruptcy.

At the beach, my children and I created memories, when memories were all I had to give them.

Esther Hofknecht Curtis is an independent writer from Smyrna, Delaware. Go to to learn more.

Book nerd and freelance writer finding gold in ordinary places. Email me at Visit

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