Apr 28 2011

What Edisto Means

When I think about what Edisto means to me, I remember my life. A lot of firsts happened here for me.

When I was six, my dad taught me how to swim in the pool at Ocean Ridge. This was during a time when I would only be in the ocean as long as my parents were with me and the waves were small, so we had to go to the pool at least once a day since I was so scared that the ocean would swallow me whole. I remember hanging onto the edge of the pool wearing floats around my arms and dipping my face into the water and kicking my legs while my dad held my stomach and my mom watched. From there, I mastered the art of the front float and kick and doggy paddle. For the next four years, my family came to that pool every summer so I could swim with my sister without having to battle the waves that still scared me.25930_593475937520_21905828_35541303_5715601_n

Then I was 10 and in the ocean with my siblings and my dad. The waves were getting big as high tide was coming in, but I wasn’t too scared because my dad was there and I’ve always believed you can’t die when your parents are around. But then he had to go back to the house for something and left me with my older siblings. Then it happened. A giant wave came and crashed over me. It swirled me upside down and washed me up on the shore. My first thought was that I lived through it. My second thought was that I loved it. So it was the summer of 1994 when I realized that I absolutely loved riding the waves and that the pool was for babies. I spent so much time in the ocean that summer that I was horribly sunburned in spite of the amount of sunscreen that I wore on my Nordic skin.

Two years later, in 1996, my family and I were living in Ireland, but would still make it back to Edisto for our family vacation. The summer was also the year that I started a friendship with my cousin Kelly who came to Edisto for the first time that year. We made a pact that year when we were 13 that we would always make it to Edisto even though someday we’d grow up and live a life without a three-month summer break. Needless to say, she was present for almost all of my best memories at the beach.

Kelly was there when we first learned how to drive in my dad’s truck on the back roads of Edisto – when we were 13 or 14. We’d ride the brake and go up and down the sandy streets feeling like the coolest girls to ever get behind the wheel. I went 45 mph for the first time on Oyster Factory Road when I was 15 and I remember thinking that I was essentially an adult for being able to really drive and not just ride the brake.

As I got a little older, my experiences with Kelly on Edisto changed as well – or in other words, she was there the first time I got really drunk. We had just graduated high school and my parents let us get some friends together and go to the beach house for a week BY OURSELVES. My older brother was in college then in Charleston and had left some alcohol behind at the beach house and so of course we mixed it with Kool-Aid and drank it. There is photographic evidence of this debauchery that involves sand dollars and duct tape, which means two things: We all had a great time and I can never, ever be president.

Kelly was also there during the summer we turned 21 and got to go out to Edisto’s bars. This was one of the best years because we were finally old enough to go out with my siblings and our older cousins and get to see what went on during the time where we were normally in our room making home videos featuring Barbie dolls and random pieces of fruit. The best part of this year was that it was the first time we decided to go skinny dipping. The only problem was that we ended up in the water with my older brother’s friends and were then caught by my dad who wouldn’t stop asking me where my shirt was. How could I have told him that if I knew where it was I would have been wearing it? That was one embarrassing walk back to the house, but I’ll never forget it – and neither will the rest of my family.

Family has always been one of the best things about Edisto. For my family, which is scattered all over the country, our vacation to Edisto was the one time when we would all get together. I got to know my grandparents here and a whole host of first, second, and third cousins. Our family jokes that the best thing about Edisto is that all of the best relatives show up for the vacation and the weirdos stay at home. This has remained true for the most part, although some of those weirdos have shown up from time to time. But it is a small price to pay when the flip side is building strong relationships with family members I might not have ever really had the chance to get to know due to the fact that we all live so far away.

Last year was the first time I experienced a vacation without my grandparents because they are too old to come now. This was especially hard on my dad as he looked forward to his morning ritual with his own father, which included getting up at about 6 a.m. and then going to the Piggly Wiggly for breakfast. Afterwards, they’d get on the boat and go fishing and lead a whole life together before the rest of the family was even awake. Dad said he cherished those moments. It’s always like a jolt to the system when all of a sudden the things that didn’t even seem like they were that important are suddenly gone and we realize they were the most important things of all.

It makes me realize the rituals that I have here that I never want to change, even though my life has changed quite a bit. For instance, I no longer vacation on Edisto; I live here. My sister and I continued my tradition of firsts by starting a business here in 2010. Then I became involved in animal rescue via Animal Lovers of Edisto (another first), and we stayed, although I do go back up north every couple of months.

Just recently, I came back to South Carolina after being up north. I stepped off the plane and smelled the warm sweet air of Charleston and all the feelings in me that I get when I think about Edisto stirred up. I was excited to get to the beach where I’ve had so many life-changing vacations. I looked at my calendar on my phone while I walked through the airport and realized that the first two weeks of July – which is my family’s vacation time – are just about 10 weeks away.

That means I am just 10 weeks away from floating in the ocean on a Styrofoam noodle with Kelly who still comes every year even though she’s a nurse now and has to take vacation days to get here.

When we’re done floating on the noodles, we’ll hose off and get on the boat with my dad. Being on the boat is something I cherish with my dad just like he cherished the time he had on it with his – even though he left the chum bag out once after a fishing trip and so I was swimming in the depths of the ocean like a giant piece of bait waiting to be eaten.

After spending a day on the water, we’ll get cleaned up and have whatever amazing dinner my mom makes on the porch of one of the houses someone in our family herd is staying in. Then we’ll go to sleep in separate rooms (we stopped sharing a room two years ago seeing as we’re in our late 20s now) and do it all again, day after day, until the vacation ends and we start planning the next one.

As you can see, my life has always revolved around Edisto and my family. And I wouldn’t want it any other way.

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