Saturday, August 9, 2008
This Used to be My Beach (part 1)
A long time ago, in 1981, I first laid eyes on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Before my then boyfriend (now husband) and I drove up the narrow strand of islands, I'd never been that far north. When I first saw the majestic dunes on Jockey's Ridge, first walked in the soft sands - so different from Galveston - and first sat in the restaurant of the Kitty Hawk pier, cupping a strong coffee in my hands, my heart was forever stolen by the simple beauty of the place.
It wasn't a perfect start, to be sure. We had been living in the '70 Ford LTD that we had bought from my brother for $200 - perhaps existing is a better term, not really living. There were days in which the future certainly seemed bleak. It was as though the whole world had turned their backs on us, all because we wanted to be together against their wishes. To this day, I don't know why they were all so dead set against us being together. There was nothing really wrong, except that they all thought we were "too young." Maybe we were, but we also knew the real thing when we felt it.
His father was in timeshare sales and had an opportunity in North Carolina. What did we have to lose? We took our last paychecks from Burger King, where we had some friends who let us work as many hours as we could so that we could be in air conditioning and have something to eat, and we set out for NC. We reasoned that though we might have to live in the car in NC, too, it would at least be near a beach. The scenery would be a lot better than it had been under the San Jacinto bridge in Humble, TX. Fewer mosquitoes, probably.
It was paradise, indeed, though we moved our car around between public beach accesses each night and filled water jugs at the pier, before it closed each night, so that we could wash our hands and face, wash each other's hair in the morning. For a change, we needed blankets at night, because the ocean breezes flowed cool through the car windows. We had no mosquitoes biting and nothing but the soft music of the sea to lull us to sleep. We got some cheap fishing poles and caught spots in the surf in the evening, sharing our catch - cooked over Sterno - with a fellow traveler who shared his beer. We lived roughly, but we were happy. It was a simple life.
Within a few months, we were living in the top floor of a house near the Wright Brothers Memorial in Kill Devil Hills. There was little time to enjoy the memorial or any of the activities the beach offered, as we started working at a pancake house seven miles away. Our car stayed parked, for the most part, because we had expired California tags (my brother had yet to send the title to us so we could handle everything) and gas was a luxury. We walked the seven miles to our job and the seven miles home, except for those days when his dad's schedule corresponded with ours. It was okay, though, because we were in great shape and we were young, just nineteen.
The fall closed in and the tourists left, though there were so few back then as compared to now. Now, it is one long gridlock on the weekends, with travelers jamming themselves into every inch of space on the road, on the beach, in the hotels, in the rentals, in the shops. It's bizarre how much it has changed.
This story will be continued, because there is a lot more to tell. Now that I'm at the beach again, the stories are welling up in me. Stay tuned for additional chapters.
Peace - D