Friday, July 31, 2015

Girls of Summer

I was raised to enjoy everything about a beach getaway.

There are the signs I pass cruising down Route 460 on a Wednesday morning:

Sunday night church services (plenty of time to recover from Saturday night)
Local produce and pickling spices ('tis the season)
Pass the Salt Cafe (shouldn't the kitchen know how to season the food?)
Mutt & Jett's Country Kitchen (do millennials even get the reference?)

There's the country store where I stop to get a six-pack of RC Cola in bottles and spot a sign next to a handsome old, chipped stone jug, reading, "Not perfect but I still have character and purpose."

A steal at $20.

My destination is an orange beach cottage with red trim and a porch that fronts the ocean (although there is a road - but no house- between us and it), an outdoor shower (beach view but no sky overhead) and two of my sisters in residence.

They're two of my favorites, but our beach preferences couldn't be more different. They keep the windows closed and the A/C on, despite a constant ocean breeze, but allow me to keep my bedroom windows open as long as my door stays shut.

They're sun worshippers while I prefer to be under an umbrella and a layer of SPF 70.

I'm gone for hours walking to the Avalon and Kitty Hawk piers north and south of us, meeting people along the way and being shown how to cast nets, while neither of them walks for more than 15 minutes.

When I make an effort to rise and shine at the ungodly hour of 8:30 in the morning, I discover they've been up since 7, awaiting my entrance.

And the laugh attacks are pretty much non-stop. When you've known two women their entire lives, you have a lot of memories to share and a lot of sentences that don't need finishing. What's funny is how they - along with my other three sisters - have always counted on me to be the keeper of the memories.

What year did Mom and Dad begin taking us to the beach? What turned another sister into someone so mean? What happened the first night we met a potential brother-in-law?

While I was there, we were invited to two happy hours, one by yet another sister who'd just the day before celebrated a birthday at her cottage and then the next night by an Irish friend of Sister #2's.

As Pru would be the first to point out, what's not to like about two nights of hors d'oeuvres for dinner?

It was at the first  happy hour that the four sisters toasted with the RC Colas I'd brought, a beverage steeped in memories for all six of us. Growing up, Mom would buy one six pack of soda a week, always either Coke or preferably, RC, her favorite. Each one of us got one bottle to enjoy anytime during the week we chose to.

This was back in the olden days, kids, back before high fructose corn syrup and childhood obesity ruined everything.

There we also were entertained by Sister #3's ragtag bunch of bachelor friends, all of whom had changed their plans and come a day earlier once they'd heard about the sister happy hour on Wednesday. It's nice to know we still have that kind of draw.

When we left there to a chorus of "please stays," it was because we wanted to head to Dune Burger and gab while inhaling classic beach burgers al fresco while the sun set.

Thursday's happy hour had the benefit of an oceanfront deck (where, impressively, the outdoor shower was situated), loads of seafood (shrimp, mussels and clams) and several people we didn't know, which always makes it more fun for me. The Irish couple I especially enjoyed, as they drolly noted that they "live on an island, can't swim and don't like seafood."

Not so the rest of us, who dove in amid jokes about getting "the gout," hilarious to everyone except Sister #2 who actually got gout last year after eating seafood for 14 straight days at the beach. We all agreed that  it sounds much funnier when referred to as "the gout," although #2 didn't seem to think so.

That night, we caught a major fireworks show on the beach right in front of where we were staying, an unexpected bonus given how long it's been since July 4th. I do wonder, though, how it is that given the abundance of signs saying that fireworks are illegal in North Carolina, there are always visitors shooting them off?

Both nights were gorgeous for the brightness of the moonlight late into the night, something we took advantage of by talking on the porch until we couldn't access our nouns any longer. My only regret was that Friday was the full moon lighthouse climb, something I've been trying to do for months but it never seems to work out.

Days were spent talking and reading on the beach, all the more interesting because I'm currently reading James Fox's book, "The Five Sisters: The Langhornes of Virginia," a fascinating biography of the fabulous Langhorne sisters. Because so much of the book deals with the dynamics of the sisters' relationships, I was able to read aloud entire passages that, with a few name changes, could have been written about me and my sisters. They roared listening.

Apparently the problems of inter-sister relationships are not only universal, but timeless.

Today dawned rainy as we devoured cinnamon puffs, a breakfast pastry that had been a favorite during our childhoods (and one I hadn't had in decades) and local peaches so juicy they ran down our arms while eating them (my stone fruit allergy limited me to just a few bites until my tongue began itching and swelling) before the sun broke through and we headed straight for the beach.

Coming across an abandoned boogie board on the way, I step on it and do my best surfing impression, cracking up both my sisters.

"Karen, you're a mess!" Sister #4 laughs, doubled over. Sister #2 just shakes her head, her usual response to my humor.

No, a mess is the sign I pass on the way home that reads:

Weekend Special!
Diesel $2.59

But, me, a mess? Au contraire. I may not be perfect but I still have character and purpose. I don't know that I can let myself go for $20, however.

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