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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Family Reunion

Dear Mom,

You would have absolutely loved “riding along” for the weekend we had with Jason and Ranie and the boys at Leigh Ann’s new beach place.

When LA was taking her leave of absence from work this spring, she realized it was time to pull the trigger on a long-held dream of hers. While I’ve always dreamed of taking time off from a conventional work schedule, Leigh Ann has always dreamed of having a beach house.

Well…what was she waiting for?! She’s worked so hard and been so successful. And, sure, we wish there had been some husbands and babies by now! But just because we “haven’t married yet” doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy some of the perks of being successful grown-ups. Buying a beach house before you turn 40?! WAY TO GO, SISSIE!!! Woooo-hooooo.

You would be proud as can be that your eldest daughter is now the happy owner of the Cheryl Memorial Coastal Cottage (CMCC) on Seabrook Island! And a member of the Seabrook Island Club. We’ve joked a lot about the fact you wanted one of us to have a beach house, and one of us to have a mountain house. So…my assignment is clear. Good thing I love the mountains! Should we go with Blue Ridge or Rockies? Or perhaps the Alps?! HA! Maybe somebody needs to stop blogging and start writing “the book.”

Anyway, as you know, Aunt Tillie introduced us to Seabrook Island in the early 90s when she and Uncle Jim built a home there. 

It was a special, special place, and Tillie let us make a lot of happy memories in her beautiful beach home. But, obviously it’s a lot of work to maintain a second home, so she sold it a year or two ago. (As Leigh Ann likes to say, “The best beach house is the one somebody else owns!”)

Leigh Ann put a lot of thought into where she’d like to have a beach home, and she decided Seabrook was perfect – it’s about a four-hour drive from Charlotte, so it’s manageable for a weekend getaway.  (Funny enough…Miss Karen’s sister Kathy and her husband have a lot there too.)

The villa Leigh Ann bought has two bedrooms and two bathrooms downstairs, plus a sleeping loft upstairs. She bought it fully furnished, and the prior owners manage the rentals for her. They’ve become fast friends. Leigh Ann celebrated her new purchase with a few of her Charlotte friends earlier this summer, and she suggested we invite Ranie and Jason to come up with the boys for Labor Day weekend.

It’s such a special part of our healing process to spend time with people who were special to all of us as a family. After all, Ranie was practically a third sister once we moved two doors down from the Subers on Highland Avenue in 1990.

Or, as we said this winter, to put it in Biblical terms – just like the skit you and MaBet had us do for a Lenten luncheon at church when we were kids – I’m Mary the social butterfly, Leigh Ann is Martha the worker bee, and Ranie is Jesus the peacemaker.
I think this was one of Leigh Ann’s birthday parties back when we lived at the farm…maybe her fourth birthday or so? There you are with your trusty bun, and there are MaBet and Miss Jane...and Aunt Suzanne with Andrew. And there's Ranie in her pigtails with Ashley, Mary Hilliard, Carolyn and Samantha. 

And even though Ranie and I were in the same class, she was only about nine months younger than Leigh Ann. So, we all grew up playing together…trick-or-treating together...
There was the time we went to that FSU game, and the big ol’ station wagon got towed…so Dad and Mr. Billy had to go find the impound lot while we practiced Seminole cheers until midnight in front of Domino’s Pizza.

And wasn’t Leigh Ann’s class leaving for the fourth grade trip to St. Augustine the very next day? Dad went as a chaperone. (I think you and Miss Betty could have entered some sort of national sweepstakes for leading a field trip somewhere for the most consecutive years…and she would win! Maybe you could get a few bonus points for all those bus hours from Quincy to D.C. Yowza.)

Okay, back to the beach!

Ranie, Jason and the boys drove up late Thursday, so we had all day Friday, Saturday and Sunday to play. What fun! Those little boys are just hilarious. Jason and I slept in most mornings, but “Clarice” and LA were up early. Eventually, they’d send those little alarm clocks into “wake up Aunt Lynsley.” Aunt Lynsley?! Nobody has ever called me that. How special!

Gosh, words can be so powerful, can’t they? My heart just melted a few years ago when I started to hear the boys calling Ranie “Mama.” There’s just something about those words coming out of little mouths that makes you turn to goo. Well, now Ranie has them calling us “Aunt Leigh Ann” and “Aunt Lynsley,” just like we called special friends “aunt” and “uncle” when we were little. (Funny enough, kids do this in Brazil too. When we’d go volunteer in Rio, little kids would call out, “Tia! Tia!” to me. (It’s like “Auntie!” in English.)

How could Aunt Lynsley and Aunt Leigh Ann resist these sandy little munchkins? MaBet was worried they’d drive us bananas, but we loved every minute of it.

They “helped” me make lemon pie with a saltine crust. (You can find the recipe here…we also made our favorite shrimp and grits recipe, which we highly recommend. Both are from the famous Southern restaurant Crooks Corner in Chapel Hill.)
Leigh Ann and I have a friend named Dave who also owns a home on the island. He made a great addition to our gang and even brought a kite for the boys to fly.

On Saturday, we drove into Charleston. We started off with a historic carriage tour. I told the boys I had five one-dollar bills that would be up for grabs during a quiz after the tour. William fell asleep, but Benjamin was tuned in, so he earned $3. (Funny enough, in the “way back” of Ranie’s SUV, which hadn’t been used for a while, he found the money you gave him via the Great Pumpkin last fall. What a little saver he is!)

All six of us loved every minute of the Charleston aquarium. What a great example of the way kids make you do things you might not have done….and help you see things with new eyes.

On the way back to Seabrook, we played numerous rounds of the boys’ favorite guessing game, “I’m thinking of an animal…” They can play it for hours!

It goes like this: “I’m thinking of an animal…and it lives in Africa…and it’s big and grey…and has a long trunk…”

That’s an easy one. The boys long ago started playing at an advanced level. They’re animal experts and come up with some really random picks. I think we first played it one night at El Potrillo while we were waiting for our food to arrive. My attempt to introduce a spin-off game, “I’m thinking of a vegetable…” did not take off.

Saturday night, I tucked them into bed with a slideshow of animal photos from my latest Africa trip.

On Sunday, Leigh Ann treated us to brunch at the club. It was delicious! We all agreed the "hot mess" won the blue ribbon. But Benjamin’s sweet smile really says it all. We had SO MUCH FUN the entire weekend.

After brunch, we did a little seaside photo shoot around the club. Next time, we may take photos before we fill up our bellies! We got a lot of giggles calling this one “JT and the Sister Wives.”

In fact, we’re hoping to make this an annual event, and we’re already planning for next year!
And…talk about future plans…that club surely would make a nice wedding venue. Hmmmm… I think a party bus packed with all our friends could find its way from Quincy to Seabrook Island…

But we’d better hustle before these little ring bearers outgrow their eligibility for that role!

Meanwhile, I kept track of a few of my favorite William-isms and posted them on Facebook:
  1. “Benjamin, now we get to have three mamas!”
  2. “Well…at least we have cookiiieeeessss!!!”
And…our favorite…

“Aunt Lynsley, are you and Aunt Leigh Ann Miss Cheryl’s sisters?”

Actually, I take that back! I almost forgot. Our very favorite quote from William came on the last morning. We got up early to meet the Turtle Patrol. They were checking on a nest they’d relocated, and we hoped to see a number of baby turtles crawl into the sea. 
We took a quick snapshot as we hit the beach.

After walking for a while, we realized it would be about a mile and a half to the nest. Oops. That’s a lot for some little legs.

The event was a bit of a bust, as we saw only one baby turtle. One baby turtle?! Big deal! These boys saw baby turtles this summer in MaBet’s backyard.

That white-haired lady from the Turtle Patrol did a great job with educational outreach for the kids…

But it kinda seemed to us like a bunch of retirees monkeying with nature and creating a rather complex organization (complete with color-coded t-shirts!) in an attempt to control the uncontrollable. I get it that humans are disrupting turtles with our beach houses and development, but if these creatures have adapted for eons, I think they’ll figure something out without our “help.”  (Please….no hate mail from the Turtle Patrol!)

By the time we got back to the boardwalk – a three mile round-trip to see a baby turtle and a two dead horseshoe crabs – William had had it.

“This is officially the worst day of my life!” he declared. We practically howled. Talk about uptown problems! Poor guy. With that flair for drama and hyperbole, I might have to claim him as my own!

And…on that note…here’s something I know you “knew,” but I’m not sure if we ever talked about it.

Dad’s middle name is Benjamin. His father’s middle name was William. The first farm Dad ever had was called B&W Farms – Benjamin and William Farms.

Isn’t that a hoot?!

Not to mention…Jason and Ranie both worked on the farm for Dad, just like you and MaBet and Mr. Billy and so many others worked in tobacco while you were growing up. I may live in Manhattan now, but that farm was a big part of our family life for my most formative years. It’s still special that friends like Ranie and Jason know that part of our history and shared it with us. 

Anyway, I always wanted to name a son Benjamin. And now we have a little Benjamin in our “framily” of “frelatives.” I was there at Centenary standing with the family the Sunday he was christened.

It’s funny how names come in and out of vogue; my college friends Alison and Jesse also named their first son Benjamin. If I had a girl or girls, I wanted to name them Julia and Caroline – as both translate nicely into Spanish and Portuguese!

And now, we have Katherine and Wesley’s little Julia…

Meghan and Drew’s little Caroline…

And…this summer…I don’t think I’ve “told you,” John and Meredith gave Aunt Judith and Uncle Jerry their first grandchild, Caroline Margaret.

Life is beautiful, isn’t it?

Who knows, I may still hatch an egg or two – without help from the Turtle Patrol – but what a gift to feel at peace with life as it’s playing out, and to enjoy the blessings of a rich life full of lifetime frelatives.

I sure do miss having you here to enjoy the ride with us. But just like the warm sunshine at the beach, sometimes I can feel you smiling down and just know you couldn’t be any happier for all of us.



1 comment:

Dee Stephens said...

WOW!! Good for LA!! I'm jelly!!! How fabulous!!
The worst day of my life.. LOL!! That's awesome ;)