Monday, July 05, 2010

::Sweat and Sobs & Introducing the Ocean::


It was time to say goodbye to our Georgia cousins. We drove back along the highway to a book store in Maryanne's end of town to trade back our children. It was a hard goodbye. "I don't want your family to go," she'd said as we got our little people buckled in. Anna and Caelah were very brave. Maryanne and I both see our younger selves in them: strong girls-- different, yet deeply compatible. In the rear view I watched a quiet girl fight with tears for a little while. I imagine my mom would have seen the very same thing in her own mirror twenty years ago.

Savannah was unanimously hailed as a must-see place. While it would have been wisest to simply drive past the exit signs and get to camp in daylight, we veered off to explore for a bit. Of course, a "bit" became a lot as we wound our way through cobbled streets and past unique garden squares filled with ornate water fountains. We walked down along the river and sampled seafood outside restaurants. Dinner was a wood-fired pizza that left us coated in cheesy grease. And slowly the daylight began to fade.

It was 7:30 pm before we got back to the van and almost 8:30 by the time we made it to ::Hunting Island State Park:: And that's when things began to descend into sweat and sobs-- went to poop, as we say. . .

We pulled up to our site and realized what a monumental challenge the next hour would be. We had to park our van and wander down a dusty, jungle-of-a pathway for a quarter of a mile just to get to the spot where we were supposed to pitch our tent. What?! The best we could do was get all of the sleepy, grumpy kids down the path first, and then have me wait there while Aidan went back and forth to grab the tent gear.

Funny things happen to me at twilight. Something about the blue light and the mind preparing itself for darkness, but my heart began to hammer hard as the kids wailed and I watched spiky palm fronds sway against the sky. I convinced myself that the weird noises were emanating from exotic jungle fauna that would bite the hapless tourists who who would quickly succumb for lack of any antibodies. {It was probably a bunch of raccoons}.

It was nearly ten o'clock by the time the oldest kids were sprawled across their sleeping bags. But Annorah , having been stretched far past her limit, cried long and hard into the night. She pitched back and forth--sweaty and miserable. And Aidan and I wondered if we would make it another ten days. I knew that we would reach this mental breaking point at some point along the way. I just didn't expect it to be the very first night. But I was ready for it. I instinctively prayed and prayed and prayed my way through the screams and the creepy noises outside. And finally, Norah snuggled close and drifted of. And we were pretty much comatose until morning.


Everything looks brighter in the morning. But in the South everything is still stinking hot too! No such thing as a cool evening breeze apparently. We woke up in the same heat we fell asleep in. The daylight revealed some cool wildlife. We saw some little green lizards and heard some brand new bird calls. The palms were dense and completely new to us. But one thing was very clear: the day had to be spent by the water or we would die from the heat. We packed our beach gear up and drove to the water.

We took a small path up over some small dunes grown with beach grass and there it was. "Welcome to the ocean guys!" I was not disappointed by the reactions. "Whoa! That's a lot of water!" In hindsight, we were truly fortunate to have come across this beach first. It was ideally suited to small kids who had no ocean experience: the water was warm--so unexpected--, it remained shallow far from shore and the waves were gentle. This meant that there was more sea life on the shore at low tide and more likelihood that the kids would even want to swim. (In the next week the beaches would get colder and the waves far more intense.)

We learned so much that first day about beach life. We had a red beach umbrella, but saw many fantastic canopies that provided much more shade. The most seasoned beach-goers pulled Radio Flyer wagons loaded with their day's necessities down the shore and set up just beyond the high tide mark. We also learned that only Northerners wear life jackets or extra items of clothing into the water. There seems to be a general immunity to the effects of waves and sun among the locals. Sigh. Fighting resentments, as I donned my long-sleeved shirt, hat and quart of sunscreen, I reassured myself with this fact: these sun babies would never survive a Canadian winter. So there.

Such beauty! Flocks of pelicans. White Egrets perched on the pier. Hermit crabs, both burdened and protected by their transient shell-homes. Sea birds dive-bombing the ocean in hope of snatching up fish. White shrimp boats slowly trawling in circles--clouds of sea gulls eagerly flying in their wake. Sand dollars peppering the ocean floor--we had to snatch them with our toes and lift them to the surface. Ignorantly, I gathered about six of them and brought them back to camp to dry. In fact, I set them on our van's dashboard to dry in the sun! Had I been caught I might have faced a "hefty fine":
And the sound... I will never tire of the sound of waves on the shore. It's a sound that pulls me and keeps we awed.

For dinner we drove into town and stopped at The Gay Fish Co. for a pound of fresh shrimp to BBQ. But we quickly learned of how the heat can limit ones appetite. We all nibbled at our food. The kids went down smoothly that night and Aidan and I enjoyed a game of cribbage by the fire before heading to bed.