We’re into the lazy days of summer. The temperature is in the mid to high 90’s and the heat index is taking it well over 100 here in south central Tennessee, temperatures similar to my home state of South Carolina. I’m having to acclimatize to Southern humidity after twenty-five years of living in the upper Midwest.
The summer heat is bringing on a sense of nostalgia today, so I put on my headphones and clicked on summer music. As Alabama’s Dancing on the Boulevard began to stream in my ears, memories of Myrtle Beach, SC and summer vacations rolled through my mind. I went there every summer from my childhood through my thirties until we relocated to Indiana for my husband’s job. It was difficult all those years living so far from the ocean. I’ve always felt drawn to the sea, but we only went a few times while living in Indiana and Wisconsin. It was a major undertaking to ride in a car with our three children, no matter what their ages, for a fourteen-hour drive. And I’d thought five hours from my hometown of Greenville to the beach was a long trip when I was a child.
My love for the coast has never waned. I still love the beach! Even today I love the feel of the heat on my skin, but I’ve learned baking in the sun has consequences. In our late teens and early twenties, my friends and I would spread baby oil and iodine over our skin and spend our days sleeping on a blanket on the beach. My dermatologist should be on retainer today. We believed we could build up our tans and it wouldn’t harm our skin because we were turning brown instead of red. However, it just ain’t so. Today, I enjoy the heat of the Southern summer sun sitting in a chair under my umbrella with my floppy brimmed hat shading my face and 70+ sunscreen covering every part of my body. Yep, I still burn sitting under an umbrella without that magic concoction. It’s a bit difficult to grow up in the South with skin as fair as mine. I would have fit in well in the antebellum South of Scarlett O’Hara.
But back to the role of the ocean in my life. The last time I visited Myrtle Beach was after my mother’s funeral almost two decades ago. My husband took me there to heal after my mother’s illness and death from breast cancer. The first day, I stared out at the ocean from our balcony and let my mind drift. Every day Ray and I walked the Grand Strand, the name for the long stretch of beach. We didn’t really talk. He understood I needed to hear the roar of the ocean, as well as savor the feel of the water running over my ankles and the sand receding from between my toes and under my heels with the ebb and flow of the notorious Myrtle Beach undertow. In the evenings, we would breathe in the salt air and let the coolness of the evening breeze caress us as we walked along the boardwalk holding hands. The town of my youth had changed so much, but the sea remains constant.
Although Myrtle Beach has changed, I will always carry my magical memories. My stomach still gets butterflies when I think about that first glimpse of the expanse of the ocean to the horizon, water as far as can be seen. My annual visits to the Gay Dolphin Gift Cove with friends and family resulted in some strange souvenirs returning home with me. It has a circular staircase to explore the many layers of the building, which is filled to the brim with anything and everything beach related. These are the items you would never buy at home but have no problem justifying spending the money while on vacation such as a handwriting analysis, or bicycle tags with your first name printed above Myrtle Beach on it, or shells you could just as easily pick up on the beach in the early morning when the tide starts rolling out. And I’ll never forget those shell curtains I bought while in college. It’s a time to relax and enjoy life!
And then there’s The Bowery and the Spanish Galleon, bars for all the college students and younger teens with fake id’s. I was thrilled when I turned eighteen, the legal drinking age at that time, and I made my first trip to The Bowery to hear a barely known group called Alabama.
As a native South Carolinian, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the state dance, The Shag, also known as the Carolina Shag. Not the Austin Powers’ shag. I’ll admit to not knowing how to dance the Shag, but it’s on my bucket list of things to learn. Perhaps, when the house is finished, we’ll break open that bottle of champagne we have chilling in our fridge, and Ray can teach me how to Shag. He is an excellent dancer.
I will be going to Emerald Isle, North Carolina at the end of July for the Babes on the Beach writers’ retreat. I look forward to spending some time staring out at the Atlantic Ocean and letting my mind and body rejuvenate after building this house. I will even get to return to my practice of yoga. Yoga on the beach. It doesn’t get much better than that. With a bit of luck and a lot of planning, this will be where I plot out my next novel, Betrayal of the Butterfly.
This is my special place, where I go in my mind when I’m feeling down. Do you have a special place that rejuvenates and heals you? A place that memories restore your energy? I’d love to hear about it and why it’s special for you?
Until next week, I hope you enjoy some lazy days of summer. I know I will.