FAMILY BEACH TRADITIONS
Going to the beach isn’t a “one size fits all” proposition! In the southern states, we are blessed with a wide variety of beaches. For the Connelly family, their preference for an annual family vacation was the beautiful Indian Rocks Beach, Florida. Near St. Petersburg, this Gulf beach had lovely white sand and beautiful shells. For my childhood friend Barbara and her family, going to the beach meant a post-Christmas vacation in Daytona Beach. For my Georgia-born friend Anne, the beach had to be Jekyll Island with the wind-twisted trees lining the beach. When we lived in Texas, we enjoyed exploring Galveston Beach, which seemed rugged and still bore traces of the 1900 hurricane there that was the deadliest natural disaster in American history.
Living in South Carolina for over three decades, we hit the beach jackpot—enjoying everything from Myrtle Beach to Litchfield Beach to Garden City Beach to Pawley’s Island to Kiawah Island to Hilton Head Island to Isle of Palms!
My immediate family, however, never went to the beach. My parents did not swim and to my mother, the ocean just reminded her of World War II. My father never saw the ocean; my mother first saw the ocean when I did (when I was 19 and she was 60). This photo of me was taken on that first beach trip—to Tybee Island near Savannah.
My brother Glenn had gotten to go to that beach several times when he was growing up—with the Underwood family. Every summer Uncle Richard, Aunt Della and Juanita rented a cabin at Savannah beach and Glenn was thrilled to go along with them. Aunt Della didn’t swim but Uncle Richard taught both Juanita and Glenn to swim at the beach.
So this particular summer when I was home from college, Glenn planned a family trip there. We rented a cottage within walking distance of the beach, and he, Katie, 6-year-old Emily, Mother and I prepared for an adventure. He had fun taking Mother shopping for her first Bermuda shorts to wear on the beach! We took a cooler with food and did most of our cooking at the cottage. Mother baked an apricot nectar cake to take along but in all the excitement, she forgot to bring it! Of course the cottage wasn’t air conditioned and we could hardly sleep for the heat and the sand that always managed to get on the sheets.
I loved exploring the Savannah area—the mysterious beauty of Bonaventure Cemetery with its rows of stately live oaks covered with long arms of Spanish moss that brushed your head as you walked along—the mosquito-infested marshes at the site of the Wesley brothers landing in Georgia with Oglethorpe—the interesting street patterns of Savannah’s squares. There was a carnival at the beach and I volunteered to take Emily for a ride on the Ferris wheel. She was a little daredevil and when we were stopped at the highest point, she stood up and began rocking the seat. I was terrified and the ride operator quickly brought us down and, much to my relief, made us leave. All in all, it was a lovely multi-generational first visit to the beach for Mother, Katie, Emily and me—planned for us by Glenn who loved it most.