In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, I am reminded of where I got my start in life. I was actually born in the Garden State that was just recently torn apart by the wind and rain. Even living in the shadows of the New York City Skyline, I was introduced to my Sea Island Culture very early. I imagine even when I was too young to understand, that my daddy would take me up in his arms and talk to me about him growing up in the “Old Country”. He would recall stories of fishing, cattle grazing, and there was a story somewhere in there about Granddaddy James’ car ending up in a dirt roadside ditch…
I highly anticipated visits to Hilton Head, which occurred twice a year, at Christmas and during the summer. Riding in the car for that 16-hour trip, I looked out of the window as the landscape gradually changed from metropolitan to rural to looking as if time stood still. After making that left turn off of Exit 28 in South Carolina, traveling the two-lane roads darkened by dense oaks and palmettos, it seemed like forever before the trees opened, revealing the vast water and the island beyond that is Hilton Head. I was always greeted by a strong family headed by my grandparents and I would once more have an opportunity to make my own memories that I would someday share with my children.
The place where my father was reared had changed drastically by the time I arrived in this world, but he had always kept it alive for me way up in Teaneck. Thanks to my dad, I realized that I can keep my Hilton Head alive for my children. I will tell about wave hopping and crabbing with my cousins. I will point to the fields that used to hold the crops and the yard where we were told to stay away from Granddaddy’s horse. I will tell them about the old blue Volkswagen Bus that we pretended to drive and the field behind the vegetable stand where we played even when it was cold. I can tell them just like it’s hard for them to leave behind a good summer, with their grandparents and go back to Tennessee, as a child, I had to leave as well and return to New Jersey. The good news is whether in Knoxville or Teaneck, the Sea Islands are alive in me and in them.
My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone who was affected in the storm.