LIFE IS A BEACH

IMG_0264Annie and Jack were living in Nashville and went to Charleston to visit her parents the summer after they had their first child. It was August, 1956. Her parents rented a cottage on Folly Beach just as they had every summer that she could remember. Jack had not spent much time on the beach and was certainly a novice to fishing and crabbing and all the things that one normally does there. He was definitely not a beach bum.

Their daughter, Cindy, was a baby then. Annie’s sister, Betty, and her husband and their three kids would be there too. Jack was about to get indoctrinated into beach living.
When they arrived at the rental cottage, he could not believe his eyes.
“Annie, you mean we are going to spend our whole vacation in this run down old shack?” he asked.
“Oh Jack, don’t be such a wimp. It’ll be fun.”
He was in further shock that night when they went to bed.
“Annie, this mattress has a spring sticking out of it. It’s on my side of the bed.”
“Jack, quit whining, I’ll go get Daddy’s wire cutters and you can cut it off.”
He was absolutely miserable. The air was hot, humid and sticky like only Charleston can be in the middle of August. There was no air conditioning nor any fans for that matter in their old run down cottage. They slept on sandy sheets that stuck to their bodies. He had sand in every crevice of his six foot three inch frame. Baby Cindy slept in a crib that had been Annie’s when she was a baby and she was happy as a clam.
Jack had not slept at all but was still laying in his misery when Annie, her sister, her sister’s husband and Annie’s Daddy came into their room.
“Get up. We’re going crabbing.”
He was glad to get out of that so called bed and he felt like a sand crab anyway, so he lazily got up and put his swimming trunks on. He put a rush on it as he sure didn’t want to miss out on Annie’s Momma’s breakfasts. She was by far the best cook in the South.
As they got ready to walk to the beach, Annie said, “Jack you better put on a long sleeve shirt and a hat. That sun can do you in if you’re not careful, and for gosh sakes, put your flip flops on. The sand will burn your feet alive.” 
He thought, She’s full of bull, she’s just trying to make me look like a freak. I’m not falling for that one. No sir-ree-bob. Annie’s not going to get me on this one. So out he went uncovered in his size thirteen bare feet.
They spent the entire morning throwing chicken backs that were tied on to lines into the gullies that were left behind by the outgoing tide, with the sun beating down and getting hotter by the minute, every so often, they would go into the surf to cool off.
They cruised the water for crabs using the chicken backs for bait and the crabs were hungry.
When there buckets were full, they headed back to the cottage.
The sun didn’t agreed with Annie’s Momma so she was perfectly happy staying at the cottage with all the babies. She loved every minute of it.
Jack’s fair skin was brightened from the sun. He had not heeded Annie’s warning about wearing a shirt and a hat nor flip flops for that matter. Sunscreen had not been invented back then, not that he would’ve used it even if it had been.

“I told you to wear a long sleeve shirt and a hat and flip flops, but no, Mr Macho wanted to show off all his muscles. Now look at them. Even the bottom of your feet are burned. I don’t know why you didn’t wear your flip flops.” Jack remained silent as his wife scolded him .
He watched with humor as Annie’s Daddy put the crabs into a huge pot of boiling water. Within seconds, the crabs started jumping out of the pot and went in every direction. All the women and kids started to scream and climb up on chairs, tables or any place they could find off the floor. Annie’s Daddy laughed heartedly as he watched his women scatter. He had done this every year since Annie could remember and every year, he always got the same reaction. He went about picking up the crabs one by one placing them back into the pot. This time, he put the lid on tight. Jack was amused at this side of his father in law who was usually very quiet.
After the crabs were cooked, they sat at the big long wooden table covered with newspapers picking crabs. Jack’s big hands and fingers proved to be a hazard.
Her Daddy said, “Jack, you don’t have to pick em to eat em. There is no rule that says you do.”
After a big lunch of deviled crabs, Jack was ready to take a nap. Annie on the other hand didn’t want to waste a minute of her beloved beach time.
“Come on you big sissy, let’s go swimming.” she teased.
He wasn’t going to let that go, so off they went. This time he wore his long sleeve Sunday dress shirt, his flip flops and one of her Momma’s big straw hats. He was quite a sight.
“Oh, Macho Man, the girls are sure gonna love you,” she quipped in a sing song manner.
He chased her down the beach and drug her into the ocean.
He watched as she swam. Jack was in awe at how the Carolina sun glistened on her tan skin and he thought her laugh was contagious. He marveled at her beauty. He joined her in the surf of the Atlantic Ocean thinking how lucky he was. They didn’t stay in the water long. Annie knew that the morning sun had taken its wrath on him. They walked up the beach and sat under the coolness of the pier looking like two teenagers in love.
The next morning, she took pity on him and let him sleep in. He was in sunburn misery. When he awaken, they decided it would be a good day to stay out of the hot sun. They would go to the historic district and do the Market before the tourists got there. After walking through the Market, they decided to take a carriage ride around the Battery. Annie loved Charleston. She had grown up on Beaufain Street and the historic district had been her playground. She knew every inch of it. They rode by Memminger High School, her alma mater. It had been an all girls public school when she went there. There was a six foot high cement wall that surrounded it. She explained to Jack that it was meant to keep the public from seeing the women getting their schooling. She told him that in her day, all the boys from Charleston High School, the all boys public school, would come over at recess and sit upon the wall and talk to the girls. She named doctors, senators, congressmen, judges and business men that had all sat on that wall. Her class would be the last to graduate from that school. She and her Memminger girl friends were still as thick as thieves.
They decided to visit Jack’s alma mater, The Citadel. The campus was quiet with no cadets there. All of a sudden, he realized what a lovely campus it was. Funny, it had never occurred to him while he was a cadet that it held such beauty. He thought, Many a good man had marched on this parade ground that was surrounded by Palmetto trees and Live Oaks. Many of these men bled and died for our country. It was almost a spiritual experience. He felt a tear well up in his eye.
On the way back to the beach, they drove by the hospital where Annie had trained to become a Registered Nurse. It was changed by new buildings, even a new nurses residence. They stopped by their favorite hang out, The Yacht Club, which was across the street from the old Riverside Nurses Residence.
She had her favorite shrimp salad and cherry coke and Jack had a crab sandwich and a beer. It seemed at the moment that time had stopped for them except for their baby, Cindy. Cindy was the best thing that had ever happened to them. They would not trade her or their life for anything.
Jack went to put a quarter in the juke box. Perry Como began to croon, “Maybe, I’ll think of you when I am all alone.” Jack and Annie began to dance with his chin on her head right where it belonged. At that moment, even his sunburn had stopped hurting.
He said, “The old juke box is playing our song.” He began to croon in his Tennessee bass voice, Maybe, you’ll say maybe. He knew how much Annie loved her city and he loved it too. He thought that maybe some day, we’ll come back here to live. He thought about their first date and how she told him how you could hear the ocean singing with the palmetto trees if you listened closely. He was pretty sure he had just heard the ocean singing. This city would always wrap her arms around them and remind them of the time when they first met and fell in love. They would visit all their old haunts like they were on a sentimental journey.
Years have passed since that day. He never brought her back to stay as he always thought that he would, but the love and bond that they felt there never would leave them nor did the magic of the Holy City. If they listened carefully, they could hear Perry Como croon “Maybe” and even hear the ocean singing with the palmetto trees for their love was magical and forever. Ironically, their life together would end where it started, in the Holy City when death parted them.

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