I grew up on the coast, so when my family went on vacation each year, we’d head to the mountains. The beach wasn’t really a vacation; we could do that anytime.
We always went to the same place. There was a little motel in Black Mountain, N.C., which at the time you could reach only by traveling up a steep mountain (presumably Black Mountain) on a very winding road. The road curved back and forth so much as you made your way up and down that my dad would always say, “We’re going to meet ourselves coming and going.”
The good news is that for most of my childhood we had a tiny Renault Dauphine, so even on narrow mountain roads, you didn’t feel like you were inches from the abyss. The bad news is that once we got on the Blue Ridge Parkway, my daddy had a tendency to let the car seek its own pace going downhill. He was a firm believer in “if you ride the brakes going down you’ll burn them out.” So we would take many a mountain road way too fast. I recall one occasion on which we were flying downhill when the road curved abruptly. I realize now that the only thing that saved us from going off the edge was that there happened to be an official overlook right in the curve. My father swerved into the overlook’s parking lot and back onto the road on the other side of the parking lot, and we kept on going.
So when I grew up and had a family of my own, the beach never called my name the way the mountains did. In fact, it was years after we moved to South Carolina that our family finally ventured south – or more south. We first went to the mountains just as I had done as a kid. We visited Asheville a few times. One year we spent a week with our children at a lake near Caesar’s Head. Otherwise our vacation was either used up on family visits (where we would go to the beach or trek to nearby Williamsburg or Jamestown) or a couple of trips to Disney World, a family visit to San Francisco, trips to Sea Island with friends, etc.
Then when our son was in the fourth grade, I think, and the girls were in first grade, we decided to try vacationing at Edisto. And there we found our place.
That first year, we planned a vacation at Edisto, Mac broke his arm just before we went. (This was one of four broken bones he would have in the course of 18 months.) Luckily his cast came off the day before we were to head to the beach. During that first Edisto vacation we fished and crabbed, swam in the ocean, ate a lot of seafood, and enjoyed the atmosphere.
If you’ve ever been to Edisto, you’re aware that there really is not much else to do. If you’re looking for nightlife, forget it. If you think you need an amusement park, forget it.
And that’s the beauty of Edisto. You spend a lot of time at the beach. Oh, there are a few shops. The number of restaurants there is limited, but worth it. (If you’ve never had the Almond Joy Pie at Sea Cow Creamery, you don’t realize what a treat you’re missing.) There is a science center where the kids can learn about the world of nature in Edisto, a herpetology center and plenty of chances to hunt for shells, sand dollars and shark’s teeth.
Unlike an awful lot of our friends, our vacations at Edisto continued to be intermittent until the grandchildren started coming. Then we realized that perhaps going to Edisto each summer might be the only time we could gather as a family (other than holidays like Christmas when there’s a serious agenda on the table).
So for the last several years we’ve tried to rent a house big enough for everyone – now a total of 15 of us. And it has been glorious for us grandparents. As I’ve mentioned before, I love watching all seven grandchildren interact. I had two cousins growing up with whom I was close – I’ve always said they were the brothers I never had. (I am an only child.) And now with the seven cousins, nothing pleases me more than watching these kids – ages 16 to 4 – enjoy one another’s company. And Edisto is the perfect setting.
Last year, we went to Edisto as usual, but it was a little different, given the raging pandemic at the time. We did not eat out a single time – with 15 of us that has become cumbersome anyway. As a result, we did buy lots of seafood. And to show you just how small and “homey” this beach is, the first time we walked into Edisto Seafood last year, even with us wearing masks, the proprietor looked up and said, “I was thinking it was about time for y’all to show up.”
All of this leads me to explain that when you read this, I will be doing my annual wind-down at this place I’ve come to love. Now that we’ve done this for many years running, I realize the beach gives everyone something to do, but not something that takes any real concentration. I can sit on the beach for hours and watch the water-lovers ride the waves, boogie-board, jump around with each other, laughing and talking, and simply getting reacquainted, as cousins should.
After all, as they say, “A bad day at the beach is better than any day at work (or anywhere else.)