I grew up near the coast, so my entire childhood, my family went in the opposite direction for vacation. We headed to the Blue Ridge mountains to rest and revitalize.
When we moved to South Carolina – a long time ago now – I was pleased to learn that we would live no more than three hours from the mountains or the beach.
But at first I was reluctant to head to the beach.
Once we had kids, we spent several vacations in the mountains. We visited historic sites around the state. And we – read that I – mostly got our fill of the beach when we returned to the area where Tom and I both grew up.
Then a friend invited me and the kids to Edisto, and my attitude changed.
You see, my experience as a youth was a beach like Myrtle Beach – busy, commercial, always bustling. Yes, there were other possibilities. My daddy was an electrician who, on the weekends, did the wiring for a friend who was developing an area of the coast largely ignored, up to that point. In those days Sandbridge was a lot like Nags Head or Edisto. There was one fast food restaurant – A&W Root Beer, I think – and there was a pavilion at the public part of the beach, but that was it. Not a lot of fun for a teen, so we went there occasionally, but I loved the roller coaster and the weekend fireworks at Ocean View, Va.
When my kids became adults with kids of their own, I finally began to truly appreciate the slow pace of a beach like Edisto. A number of years ago we started trying to rent a beach house each year that would accommodate us all. My thinking was that with careers and families all around, the beach was one place where we could all take a break, give one another a chance to reacquaint, give my grandchildren time to get to know their cousins and have some fun.
With the pandemic still a serious issue, this year was a little different – Mac and Joy decided to stay home. (Joy gets enough exposure through her job as a nurse practitioner that she tries to severely limit the exposure their kids get to potential COVID-19 carriers.) But my two daughters and their four children between them decided to venture to the beach. Since the younger Britts weren’t coming, we let Cade and Payton each bring a friend (the only non-family members they’ve seen with any regularity since March).
As with every year, I learned a few things during our week at our calming place:
• I still don’t love the beach – I’m not a great swimmer and getting in “dark water” (my daughter Cat’s term since she was about 8 for water in which you can’t see your feet or the things crawling around in it) adds to the fear factor. Liz loves to sunbathe, but her husband hates the sand and the salty water and the heat. Vince definitely joins Opa and our other son-in-law, Scott, in the ocean for his girls’ benefit.
• I don’t hate cooking at the beach. In our normal lives Tom has been the chief cook at our household from the time I became the editor of The Star. But at the beach, he’s the chief playmate for our grandchildren. So Cat – who doesn’t like “dark water” at all, remember – and I are willing to spend time checking out the fresh seafood available and finding new ways to cook it.
• We can spend a week at the beach without the need for major grocery shopping. This year to minimize exposure to strangers, we tried to bring everything we needed except for the seafood. I only had to go in for eggs and ice cream once, and Liz and Vince are on some serious diet that requires beaucoups of fresh veggies, so they went on quick trips a couple of times.
• At Edisto, you quickly have “family” away from home. For example, when we went to the seafood store early in the week, even with masks and sunglasses, the regular proprietor said, “I thought it was about time y’all showed up.” I’ll admit I only recognized him by his voice, but he definitely recognized us.
• Children are learning and changing all the time. I realized that one thing I love about Edisto is the chance to sit and watch my grandchildren grow and experience new things. Clarke, 5, and Pearce, 7, are both swimming in their pool in Greenville, but this was the first time Pearce not only loved jumping in – and getting knocked down by – the waves, butt she also became a master of the boogie board, along with her bigger cousins. They spend hours riding the waves into shore. And Clarke, who has not been a fan of the sea, gradually edged her way deeper for the first time. By the end of the week, she tried to get on the boogie board, and enjoyed walking out into the deeper water, as long as Opa had her hand. I believe in another week she likewise would have ventured out into the waves.
• I’m not sure how old kids have to get before they can spend more than about 30 minutes without getting into mischief. With six kids ranging from 5 to 12, pretty much every day, if they were left to their own devices upstairs, someone did something they shouldn’t have. It was never anything major, but no one likes sleeping on an air mattress that no longer inflates or on a bed that’s wet because you had a water fight.
• When it comes to shell-seeking, some of us have the knack, and some don’t. Cat hunts shark’s teeth and is very good at it – I don’t have the patience. Cade can spot a fossil in five minutes. The girls found two intact sand dollars and numerous unbroken shells without even working at it.
• Even with limited contact during the pandemic, my Greenville girls didn’t forget their YaYa. While I’m not much of a hugger of adults, I am with my little ones. Unsolicited, the girls would periodically climb in my lap for some down time. It warms my heart.
• No matter the quality of the bed in a rental (we had a king-sized bed with a memory foam topper), there’s no place like home for a good night’s sleep.
We’re home now and already looking forward to next year at Edisto.