... I’ve lived at (and visited) many beaches in my day – Virginia Beach, the Outer Banks, the Cape, Galveston, Ocean Beach in San Diego – but nothing compares to “my beach.”
My beach is Carolina Beach, a small, unpretentious place about 15 miles outside Wilmington, N.C., between the Atlantic Ocean and Cape Fear River. My grandparents built a house, which my grandmother designed, and two cottages next door during the 1950s. My mother and aunt spent summers there, then my cousins and I did the same. The four-bedroom house never had air conditioning other than the breeze blowing from the ocean but we could always keep cool with a dish of Grandmother’s homemade peach ice cream.
All summer long, Grandmother would rent the two cottages out, mostly to families from West Virginia or Kentucky who saved up all year for this one week in the sun. They would drive up in their cars, the kids pressing their faces to the windows as they saw the ocean for the first time. After they got the key, and often before even unpacking the car, the whole pack would run, stripping off shirts and shoes, arms outstretched, into the waiting surf.
I was born in Wilmington, but only because Carolina Beach, where my parents lived at the time, didn’t have a hospital. Years later while I was pregnant with my first child, my cousins went to the beach house and scooped up a container of sand and shells, then mailed it to me in New York. My husband placed it under the hospital bed (both times) so my children would be born over Carolina Beach soil.
The last time I saw the house and beach was 2001. Monday, Sept. 10, 2001, to be exact. We had gone to meet my cousins and show my new husband this place I’ve talked about for years. The vacation didn’t turn out as planned, as we spent most of the week trying to contact our friends in New York City and watching news of the terrorist attacks instead of lounging in the sand.
My kids had never seen the beach or the house, which my grandmother sold decades ago when the upkeep became too much. So, on this trip, we drove over the bridge and into the small town. The boardwalk, though a bit bigger, still had the obligatory arcade and the wonderfully simple Britt’s Donuts shop, voted the best in the country by numerous magazines, tourists and natives alike. They’ve been selling one kind of donut – basic, glazed, perfect – since 1939. Donuts, coffee, milk. That’s all that is on the menu. What else do you need? ...
I snapped pictures of my kids in front of the house, with the same view I used to see spread out behind them. There were lots more people on the beach than I ever had to tolerate, the tide was coming in and we got caught in a terrible lightning storm that sent us under the porch for a time.
Still, like a sweet, delicious donut, it was perfect.
Monday, July 11, 2011
Column: Carolina Beach is 'my beach'
Came across this touching column from Carolina Beach native Kris Worrell, editor of the Utica Observer-Dispatch about her memories of what she called "my beach."