Fashionista Dreams

Video

There are those in the city of Toronto who are all a-flutter this morning as it is the start of something called Toronto Fashion Week.  These are the people who indulge in huge portions of purified oxygen and vitamin water for breakfast.

People like me, devotees of hoodies and yoga pants, dare not show themselves downtown for the week.

Truly though, my lack of fashionable-ness has been bothering me lately – in fact, ever since I saw the photos from our summer vacation.  But, yoga pants are comfortable in the extreme.  So are sweatpants.  Some days I just can’t face cramming my muffin top into the not-so-skinny jeans that I bought at the grocery store.

Thank God my mother is not around to see me schlep into middle age.  My mother never left the house without looking a good bit better than presentable.  Hair was washed, set, and lacquered into place.  Makeup was carefully applied.  Clothes were clean and pressed.

My mother would admonish me for leaving the house without lipstick.  I thought she would suffer a collapse the morning she caught me with my hair held up by a binder clip because I didn’t have time to wash it and couldn’t find enough hairpins to put it up properly.

I admit fashion is not my thing.  However, sometimes even I go too far: faded sickly gray sweatpants and fleece pullover  covered in equal parts lint and cat hair.  Out in public.  Yes, ewwww.

So, Friday night as my daughter and I strolled through Toronto’s Eaton Centre, I paid close attention to those around me, making mental notes.

I noted that most of the women (teenagers excepted) wore heels of varying heights or they wore this season’s hottest item:  high leather riding boots.  Jackets, even leather, were tailored and slightly fitted.  Scarves were everywhere.  Tops – unless they were tunics – were tucked in and all jeans sported belts.

I can’t wear heels much anymore because of my bad back.  I own no riding boots, tailored jackets or even a scarf.  I hate belts.

At the grocery store Sunday afternoon, I did more fashion reconnaissance.  I wore a white Fruit of the Loom t-shirt and the jeans I’d done the gardening in.  I may have been wearing my 13 yr. old son’s hoodie.  While I pretended to study nectarines, I spied on the women around me. Shockingly, quite a few were dressed – maybe not to the nines – but to at least the sevens.  Tailored jackets, clean jeans, scarves.  Makeup.  Some even had small children in tow.

I considered climbing into one of the freezer cases when I saw my neighbour across an aisle. Gleefully noting her wet hair, elastic waist pants and puffy down vest, I wanted to run over and give her a high-five.  It then occurred to me that then I would have to explain myself:  “Oh, Sally – so good to see someone else here who looks as bad as I do!!  Go girl!”  No.  That wouldn’t go over well.

Do I continue to claim victory every morning for at least getting out of my pjs?  This morning I showered, put on clean clothing.  I promise to apply at least some lip gloss before leaving the house.  Maybe I’ll even crush one of the kids’ Flintstone vitamins into a glass of water and chug it.  I will avoid downtown like the plague.

Getting It

Standard

I have long watched herds of teens roaming the neighbourhoods we’ve lived in and wondered, “Where are their parents?”  “Did her mother SEE what she left the house in this morning?” “How could that boy be allowed to walk out with no coat?”  I would then make clucking noises and shake my head.

Oh, how far the smug have fallen…

Fear not, I am still shaking my head and making odd noises that no one pays any mind to.  However, this happens as I stand at my own front door (slightly hidden on purpose behind the doorway so my teenage son doesn’t see me watching) as my boy walks off our property wearing nothing but a t-shirt and torn jeans.  Beneath my feet, the furnace thrums away in our basement.

Because its bloody cold outside.

I get it now.

Herds of teens roam the chilly streets of Toronto inappropriately dressed not because they’re parentless urchins but because that is how they like it. No, let me re-phrase that:  that is how they demand it.

As I stood impotently in the foyer holding out a hoodie, my son barked at me in his ever-deepening voice, “I’m FINE!”  Which means, “Mom, if you come one step closer to me with that thing I will burn it with the lasers that will shoot out of my eyeballs, I’ll incinerate you and the hoodie right there.”

My daughter, God love her, has only this year seemed to show more common sense but with girls it’s different.  Coats, jackets, even puffy parkas, can be a fashion statement – as can warm winter boots.  Boys – a species I have lived 50 years not understanding and will probably go to my grave no wiser about – are different.  Boys have to show that they’re tough or cool or at the very least, that they can survive their own stupidity.

I think.

So, as I watch the skinny figure of my boy walk into the morning sun (thank God for that at least), I shake my head and wander off to find my fleece-lined slippers.  At the top of the stairs I look into his room, a den of computer cords, phone chargers, headphones and an unmade bed.  I walk down the hall sounding like a discontented barnyard hen.  Cluck, cluck.

Getting it doesn’t make me any happier.

 

 

There Are No Accidents But So Many Questions

Standard

I am here by accident.  Well, not here on earth…well…actually, since there is an 11 year span between me and my sister I stand corrected on that score…

I am on my blog by accident – today.  I was sitting here thinking of ways I could procrastinate (again).  I’ve already cleaned the bathroom and dyed my hair.  I’ve read the newspaper and played with the cat.  I’ve answered the door (thank you, Fed X!).  Fresh out of ideas, I was in the process (or so I thought) of logging onto Facebook.

My fingers had other ideas.  They know what I should be doing and set about typing WordPress instead of Facebook.

Traitors.

As every writer knows, procrastination is the devil on your shoulder.  The little voice that says, “Hey, wouldn’t you rather motor up the Don Valley Parkway and look at fall foliage?” or, “Hey, wouldn’t you rather scrub the toilet?”  Rationally speaking, the answers to both questions would be no.  The DVP is a pain in the ass and so is the toilet but this is what happens when a writer feels compelled to procrastinate.  Suddenly, inexplicably, there is nothing more important than a bunch of yellow and red maples or the disgusting state of the toilet.

Writers, as stated by many famous ones, are world champion procrastinators.  If procrastinating were an Olympic sport, we’d all be gold medalists.  The smart writers sit placidly in front of their screens and daydream.  The ones with ADD (like me) paint rooms.  Let’s just say partners and spouses can tell that you haven’t been writing all day if the house is a different colour when they get home.

Why do writers procrastinate?  What is it about our genetic/personality/dysfunctional make-up that necessitates avoiding doing the very thing we claim to love so dearly?

I have a theory:  fear.  Every time I sit in front of my screen, I am terrified that no words will come.  This fear is now magnified by the fact that I’m on antidepressants.  I’m cheerful and calm these days but the creativity seems to have dried up like a desert lake.  I break out in a cold sweat just thinking of writing; I walk in a wide arc around the computer.

When push comes to shove and my fingers get moving, I’m usually fine.  If I’m not, I vow to write my “one square inch” and be done with it.  However, it’s really hard not to feel enormously guilty about less-than-stellar efforts or results. Guilt does not always yield creative results.

Worse than procrastination is hard work that doesn’t necessarily yield a tangible product at the end of the day.  By sitting down at the computer for four to six hours, I’m not building anything that you can sit on, I’m not solving the debt crisis in Greece, I’m not finding a cure for cancer.  I’m not earning a dime from that four to six hours of effort.

So, why?  How many writers, day in and day out, ask themselves that very question?  Is it worth the guilt?  The ever-mounting bills?

The other evening, my daughter was discussing what she wants to do when she grows up.  Her (current) career choice is not one that will garner her a huge income, ever.  I blurted out, “If you love what you do, that is the most important thing.”  I caught some looks.  I felt guilt and sadness wash over me.  Is love enough?  What a question.

 

 

Faith

Standard

Blank page: could be good, could be very very bad. Coffee could be spiked…it’s all good.

Over an impromptu coffee with one of my writing teachers yesterday, I poured my heart out about The Novel and its 1) lack of direction, 2) lack of completion and my general mental illness regarding same.

My teacher, a wise and beautiful woman, nodded knowingly.

“Yes.  It’s the nature of the beast,” she said (or something to that effect).  “Why do you think so many writers off themselves or drink themselves into oblivion on a regular basis?  Being a writer is lonely, hard, thankless, and only undertaken by those who are mentally ill to start with.” (Or something to that effect).

A dark cloud passed over our cafe magnifying the sense of Gloom.

Instead of walking out of there and popping into the Kilt and Dagger next door (a not-so-charming pub perfect for a disconsolate sort), I walked to my car feeling strangely buoyant.

Yes, it’s true my mental instability knows no bounds but I think what my friend did was renew my faith.

I (finally) understood that having faith doesn’t mean that some days aren’t gonna suck.  Having faith doesn’t mean you don’t feel insecure or lost. Having faith is understanding that there are sucky, bad, bitch-worthy days – sometimes these days stretch into weeks and months.  You carry on because you know somehow that this hard, lonely path is the one you were meant to be on – no matter what.  You have to recognize that insecurities and low points are are normal.  It is ok.  Writers are blessed with permission to be insecure, unstable, self-doubting, and cranky – how awesome is that!

I’m not insane.  I’m a writer.  Well, ok I might be a little bit insane but…whatever.

Do gold miners walk into the hills and see bands of polished, gleaming metal on the surface?  No, they do not.  They have to dig through miles of muck and stone to find the good stuff.  Writers are different – we lay down the miles and miles of muck and then dig back through it looking for a nugget that we may have inadvertently written.  How many times have I sifted through page after page of dreck, thinking that the bottle of scotch in the corner really needs draining when suddenly, there:  a sentence, a turn of phrase, or a passage – a nugget of something golden.

Writing is thankless, hard, decidedly un-rewarding.  It’s lonely.  No one understands why we do what we do when the chances of winning the lottery seem to far outweigh the chances of getting published.  Yes, writers are a strange breed.

We are paragons of faith.

Curiosity

Standard

This is actually Sable Island off Nova Scotia, not my island.

The old adage goes, “Curiosity killed the cat,” and while that may be true for hapless felines, it is not true for anyone who writes fiction.  Curiosity is like oxygen.  It breathes new life into old, tired storytellers.  Like me.

Yesterday, for reasons I cannot now recall, I was perusing Google maps.  I was off the East coast of the U.S. when I discovered an unfamiliar landmass off the coast of ______.  I’m being deliberately vague here because if I disclosed what state, I might get into trouble.

Curiosity led to further digging; the landmass is a privately owned island.  Not that this is a particularly remarkable discovery – there are loads of them up and down the east coast.  Further curiosity revealed that this particular island has been owned by the same family, uninterrupted by wars, deaths, and lawsuits for hundreds of years.

Hmmmmm…private island, ancestral lineage, old money, persistent eccentricities…I smell a story.

Enter practicality, if just for a moment.  I’m not a historical fiction writer; I cannot fathom tackling the saga of such a family through the centuries.  I’m more interested (curious, if you will) about the culture clash between the generations of such a dynasty.  Immediately, I thought of all the eccentric characters I knew growing up on the coast.  Salt air breeds not only rust but decidedly colourful people.

My mind is swimming from the mainland out to this island. A mere speck on the map, its sandy shores are barely holding their own above the rising tides. A slightly crazy patriarch.  His daughter and son – both of whom left the island wanting to discover the “real” world on the mainland.  A cast of eccentric relatives.  A family at the mercy of the tides and time.  Run-ins with storms and the Coast Guard.  A history of piracy (rumoured).  A scandal from a hundred years ago.  Bagpipes.  Shoals.  Learning to accept (and love) the family you’ve got no matter how crazy they are.

Yeah.  I’m turning off the phone.  I’m going to be busy this afternoon…I’ll be on my own private island.

The Slowdown

Standard

I sit unwashed and pajama-clad.  The kids are gone, the cat is riding a skateboard around my kitchen.  Bono croons in my ear thanks to my iPod.  I am trying, determined and grim-faced, to write something, anything.  Just a sentence.  Please, God. Just a sentence.

Good job, kid.  You’ve managed eight quasi-sentences; not pretty, not perfect but there they are – words on a page in a straight line, in English.  Why the sudden struggle you ask?

Well for one thing, its Fall.  As the weather cools, things tend to slow down inside my head.  I swear I was born to hibernate – me ending up as a human was a boo-boo on someone’s part.  I eat copious amounts of idiocy-inducing carbohydrates and think constantly about sleep.  Thoughts and movements become sluggish.  My husband should realize that my appearance at the gym last night was nothing short of miraculous.

More sobering: I’ve gone back on antidepressants.  For anyone who has suffered from depression chronically, you know the medication can be as much of a curse as a cure.  Apparently in order to boost mood the brain needs to come to a grinding halt.  It makes no sense to me but there it is.

I have to say that the drugs have come a looooong way since I was last at their mercy.  I remember being on Paxil one bitter Calgary winter.  I was at the stove stirring something.  In a near-stupour, I stirred that pot for an hour until someone gently took the spoon away  and stood me in a corner.  I was robotic but really not too concerned about it.

Nice.  In those days, I was driving very small children around in snowy, icy conditions.  It makes me shudder recalling how completely out of it I was.  I didn’t write.  I didn’t even think.  The modern drug that I’m on now doesn’t make me quite as dopey but I am shite at parking the car suddenly.  And I don’t care.

What I do care about is the fact that my creative tap has been shut off.  The odd idea floats by but I can’t react fast enough to grab it and set it down on paper.  The Novel is literally a chapter or two away from completion.  I wrote a pivotal scene right before I went on medication.  It was bad – it careened between happily-ever-after and desperate cruelty.  Eesh.  I’m afraid to even open the file.

I could finish it.  I could wrap everything up in a neat, tidy bow and be done with it but I know it needs a substantial re-write.  I know I’m not capable of doing it right now.  Because I need a haircut and a nap, not necessarily in that order.  It’s 9:15 in the morning.

What tidings will Winter bring?

Writing the Hurt

Standard

My favourite scene from a Diane Keaton/Jack Nicholson movie whose title I’ve forgotten is when she sits at her computer, sobbing buckets.  She is a writer and as such, she can do nothing else but write about her most unfortunate liaison with Jack, a gut-wrenching episode in her life.  She cries so much her computer is in danger of short-circuiting from salt water damage, she sits in a sea of Kleenex.  It is hilarious.  It struck a chord with every writer who saw it.

That which is written from the heart or the deepest part of your gut is likely to be the most authentic work.  Truth in writing resonates with readers.

Such writing is painful.  Probably on a par with having your fingernails and toenails systematically plucked out while simultaneously being prodded with a hot poker.  Or, perhaps if you were possessed by a demon and had to undergo an exorcism by a particularly sadistic priest.  Or, being burned alive.

That’s the kind of pain I’m talking about.

Writing produced in such a way is the writing you will have to hide from family members or publish under a nom de plume because invariably its about them – unless you’re very, very brave.  But that’s ok.  Nom de plumes are fun – I’ve already got three myself.

Writing the hurt is worth the pain.  The process is difficult.  I’ve paced countless footsteps in front of my desk, pushed myself away from the keyboard because it felt as though the keystrokes burned my fingers – the words hurt so much.  I’ve agonized – is it too much?  How can I say that?  Why does my mind go there?

What is this weird desperate need for attention that prompts writers to reveal, through the vehicle of fiction, their deepest fears and sufferings to total strangers? I sometimes think therapy would be healthier…

The Slow Slog to Salvation

Standard

School is back in session.  The weather has turned with the abruptness of a quickly turned page.  Everyone is in “back to the grind” mode.  That includes me.

Aside from posting anecdotal blogs about our summer vacation, there is a virtual autumnal cornucopia of story ideas floating around my head.  On top of those, The Novel is close – make that very close – to being finished.  The Shitty First Draft, that is.  I’m already coming up with ideas on how to change it.

For the first time in  a while, I gave The Novel an entire days’ attention yesterday and it felt good, productive, worthwhile – like getting back to the gym does.  Sure, the muscles are stiff and reluctant but once they get warmed up, it’s like you never got off the elliptical or the stair-stepper or whatever.

The creative mind is a muscle that must be exercised regularly, given proper nutrition to build it, and proper rest to…well, rest it.  Believe it or not, sometimes the story needs to sit and stew awhile.  Having said that, I get ansty and cranky when I don’t “work out” the creative part of my brain – just like some people get homicidal when they don’t visit the gym regularly (I wish I was like that).

See – I’m trying to justify what a lazy ass I’ve been all summer.  I envy writers who can knock out a novel in sixty days.  At least, I think I do.  When I’m staring at the page wondering whether Aunt Alexandra should laugh off the latest tragic turn to her life or throw herself off a cliff, I envy writers  that seem to have it all figured out in advance, who can make snap decisions.

But, no matter.  It’s Fall, if not officially by the calendar then by every other indication.  It’s back to work time.  Back to the writing life that keeps me grounded, happy, and whole.

The truth is, I get grumpy when I take any time off from writing.  There is salvation in the telling of the tales.

Birthplace of a Banshee

Standard

I have to admit, I got nostalgic as our crowded, sandy Jetta sped (figuratively speaking, of course) along once familiar highways.  Road signs pointing to places like Jamestown, Williamsburg.  Closer to DC, the signs read Woodbridge, Quantico, Potomac Mills.

Things kinda ground to a halt where they always have done:  Tyson’s Corner.

There, it seemed the Beltway, Washington’s legendary ring road, was being revamped.  An endless line of traffic stretched from suburban Virgina, across the Potomac, and well into Maryland.  Day-um.

I know the Beltway.  It doesn’t scare me or intimidate me but like everyone else who drives it, the damn thing frustrates me.  Clearly, nothing had changed in that regard.  What has changed since I left my hometown in 1993 is the sheer volume of traffic.

Jesusmaryandjoseph, the TRAFFIC.  First I supposed it was construction.  Then I mused that it was the downpour combined with the construction. Then, over one hour later, having not gone more than two miles, I considered the fact that there were too many cars on too little highway.  Looking around as we sat – what else could we do – I looked at the new lanes under construction and knew instantly they would not be enough.

Welcome home, Banshee.

Talking to friends during our visit, the consensus is that too many people drive in DC.  There is constant gridlock – on every freeway, parkway, avenue, and side street.  If a goose so much as poops on Connecticut Avenue within an hour of rush hour, it will cost motorists hours of delay.  They will sit and sit and fume and fume (as we did) and they will never see any evidence of a problem – just the endless glow of tail lights ahead of them.  The goose will have made it back to Canada before commuters in DC get to their homes.

‘Nuff about traffic.  Once we made it to our hotel, The Madison on 15th Avenue NW, we were almost too pooped to notice our luxe surroundings.  The Madison is a posh hotel where power brokers come to schmooze each other.  The game hasn’t changed in this town.  The outdoor cafe was full even as we dragged our road-weary selves in around 11 pm; everybody in it oozed something – money?  Power?  Importance?  We oozed burger grease and sand.

The linens on the bed were the finest we’d felt yet.  The decor was the epitome of understated elegance.  Thank you, Visa rewards points for this hotel I murmured as I passed out on at least 101 bed pillows.

The next morning I awoke to find my husband gone.  This is not at all unusual.  He likes to wake early and get a lay of the land before he herds us sleepy folk around.  I knew roughly where we were – the Washington Post Building was two doors down and the White House was right around the corner – but the husband likes to explore.  Plus, he’s well-trained to scope out the nearest Starbucks for me as I don’t go very far at all without a latte.

Sure enough, he had it all worked out by the time we got up.  The plan on this very, very hot day was to see:

  • The Smithsonian’s Natural History and Air & Space Museums
  • The White House (from the outside)
  • The Spy Museum
  • any other art gallery or museum that was free

The Smithsonian complex crams no less than ten museums within a mile and they’re all FREE.  The Potomac River along the Tidal Basin is also chock full of things to see – also free. That said, it’s nearly impossible to see everything in one day – the museums are huge and crammed full of fascinating (ever-changing too) exhibits.  By the time you get to the memorials on the river, you’re at risk of falling into the water due to exhaustion.

On this day, I left the museum trekking to the family; I paid my respects to the Gems section (Hello, Hope Diamond!) and then I split.  I had a lunch date with my dearest friend from DC who is like a sister.  If I ever get famous and if she ever decides to write a book – WHEW!  I’m in trouble.  That kind of friend.

I walked up Constitution Ave to 12th St. NW and hopped on the Metro at Federal Triangle.  I scurried by the IRS Building with my head down (yeah, I owe them some money). During the short walk, I noticed how clean everything was.  DC looked like it was all spiffed up for a party.  I also noticed how lovely the buildings, the trees, and the wide streets were.  It’s a beautiful city, my city.  It’s funny how we can live in the midst of beauty (for over thirty years) and fail to see it.  Was it always this nice?

Once I figured out the Metro ticket machine (thank you little old man from the info. kiosk!), I was on my way.  On DC’s Metro system, riders pay by distance; the further you go on the line, the more it costs.  Unlike Toronto where you pay $3 whether you go one stop or 20. Fares increase during peak hours.  Based on the traffic I’d seen, it was clear more people needed to ride it.

After a lovely lunch, my friend and I battled midday gridlock to get to her house in a close-in suburb.  Around six pm her husband joined us for the rush-hour gridlock back to the Metro station nearest their house.  Here’s the thing about the transit system in DC: once you get to your stop, you might still have a long commute to your house (if you live in the suburbs).  Yikes.  If I ever live there again, it will be downtown.

Over dinner that night at Irish pub in the heart of the city, the family recounted their day.  The kids’ favourite place had been The Spy Museum.  It sounded awesome – very interactive.  The kids were fascinated by the prevalence of spy games during the Cold War. Offices, hotels, and restaurants were all bugged back then.  DC was on the front lines; there was a spy on every corner.

DC is the epicenter of great power.  The architecture reflects this.  As we walked by the Old Executive Office Building my husband commented, “This whole place was designed to impress.”  Absolutely.  Maybe Washington has always had to prove itself, to “dress for success”; that’s why there is so much grandiose architecture downtown. Back in the beginning, the U.S. had to fake it til it made it.  Nothing like a lot of marble and gold leaf to accomplish the effect.

So much there wasn’t time for: the Vietnam Memorial, the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials – I know that even my somewhat jaded teens would’ve been moved and impressed.  The Capitol Building, surely one of the most wondrous sights.  Then there’s Georgetown – a perennially hip district once full of boutiques and funky shops.  A side trip to Mt. Vernon would’ve been cool too (the kids are always asking me about George Washington).

Nonetheless, Washington, birthplace of Banshee, got a huge thumbs up from everyone.  We will surely go back and see much more.  Thanks grande dame by the Potomac, hopefully we will see you again soon!  I am proud to call you home.

The traffic, though.  Get that sorted.  It reminded me a lot of Congress:  perpetual gridlock.

Cats, Ducks and Nags

Standard

For the uninitiated, place names on the Outer Banks seem a bit odd.  Ancient fishing villages like Nag’s Head and Kitty Hawk and Ocracoke sound whimsical at the very least.  Their history is every bit as colourful as their names.  Ocracoke was home port to Blackbeard.  Legendary Cape Hatteras  has witnessed the death of countless ships and sailors on its treacherous shoals. Corolla is home to wild horses descended Spanish ships that foundered off the coast.  The Outer Banks are so much more than just beach.

However, the beach is the primary reason anyone from the mainland sets foot on these narrow barrier islands.  There are literally miles and miles of beach and the water is warm; the waves, respectable.

I’ve been going to the Outer Banks probably since I was an embryo.  Some of the earliest photographs of Baby Banshee were taken on the beach at Kill Devil Hills where I sat baking in the summer sun in an ill-fitting red bathing suit and a small straw hat.  My last visit, until a couple of weeks ago, was when I was fifteen.

A recent issue of National Geographic magazine re-awakened a strong tide of desire to see my Atlantic beaches again.  I did some math; it had been thirty-five years since I’d been to my summer playground.  Disgraceful!

So when my husband was cobbling together our summer road trip, I knew we had to pass through North Carolina to get from Atlanta to Washington DC.  We would be so close – couldn’t we just veer eastward for a couple of days and sink our toes into some Atlantic sand?  I pleaded (it was whining).  I shed tears and lamented that my children had never dabbled their feet in the Atlantic Ocean – an oversight that rendered this East Coast girl a negligent parent.

Once my husband agreed to the detour, I regaled everyone with tales of my beachy summers – climbing the East Coast’s biggest sand dune, the Wright Brothers, how my mother used to be able to buy fish right off the piers, Mr. Midgett’s fruit and veggie truck, the cottage, the sea, the salt, the sand…

Upon our arrival at the Hilton Garden Inn at Kitty Hawk, fresh from our disastrous hotel experience in Virginia Beach, my children heard there was an indoor pool and hot tub. Seriously?  My youngest rooted around for a charger for his DS.

I stood on the balcony of our room and looked out at the ocean.  And burst into tears.  Why didn’t anyone get it?  Mind you, we’d only just arrived but still…

Gently, patiently, my husband tried to explain that to the kids it was just a beach, an ocean.  Nothing more, nothing less.  It was a hotel with Wi-fi and room service.  I grumbled but knew he was right.  It was impossible for my children (or my husband) to appreciate the meaning a place called Kitty Hawk held for me.  I came to realize that my memories were largely unshareable.

In spite of threatening skies, I ran down to the beach.  I sat down and let waves break right at my feet. Surf rushed around me.  Soon my skin and hair were caked with salt and my bathing suit was filled with sand.  I was three years old again and happier than I’d been in a long time.

My daughter appeared at my side, gazing apprehensively at the crashing waves. Here was my opportunity.  I stood up and waded out into the surf and she followed.  Soon we were being knocked around by the surf.  We were soaking wet and holding our suits on for dear life.  We shrieked with laughter and ran in and out of the water trying to escape what we used to call “the washing machine.”  The boy child was more reticent but soon he was in there too.

That night, already enamoured by the place, my husband bought an embarrassing amount of beach paraphernalia – shovels, buckets, diggers, skim boards, frisbees…as if the kids were five years old.  Nonetheless, everything (except maybe the skim boards) were put to good use. We all found our inner five-year old again on that beach.

That is the beauty of the Outer Banks beaches – they are tailor-made for family fun.  There are no nightclubs – the closest you’ll get is some dude with an acoustic guitar playing on a  restaurant’s rooftop deck.  There are no casinos and no tacky boardwalk.  There are restaurants that cater to families, eclectic clothing shops, motels run by the same family for generations, and an assortment of “beachy” tourist stores.  The most radical thing you’ll see are the mini-putt golf places built to look like pirate ships.

Mostly there are cottages – my husband and I walked down the beach for hours just looking at them.  They literally come in all shapes and sizes.  Some have rooftop decks that you wouldn’t dare have one cocktail on because getting down would be so dicey.  These cottages are awash in sand, damp bathing suits and towels, and tuckered out kids.

Family vacationing is the essence of the Outer Banks. Although there are way more cottages there than when I was a kid, the place has not lost its family feel.  Just avoid the “highway” where all the fast food restaurants are (although if you ever go – you must go to Capt. Frank’s – it’s on the highway around mile post 4 or 5.  Best cheese steak I’ve had in a while.  It’s a no-frills kind of place but it puts anything like McDonald’s or BK to shame – as it should.  Don’t let the girl behind the counter scare you.  She’s just busy as all hell.

Another good place is right by the Hilton – Rundown Cafe.  We ate at The Black Pelican on our last night but I seriously can’t remember what I ate.  It wasn’t bad – just not memorable.

Seriously, you could spend all summer sampling the restaurants there.  Some good, some tired and some have literally been there since I was a child (Port O’Call Restaurant).  We wanted to try Awful Arthur’s.  Or, Tortuga’s Lie.  Or, (ahem) Dirty Dick’s Crabhouse (the T-shirts are hilarious).  We just didn’t have enough time.  We did find time for the most amazing (and not at all healthful) breakfast pit stop:  Duck Donuts.  Made fresh while you wait, they come to you warm.  They are melt-in-your-mouth delicious.

Before I knew it, it was time to leave.  Someone I know cried all the way across the causeway back onto the mainland.  Memories flooded my brain like a storm tide.  My mom cooking bluefish in a pound of butter.  My dad flying down at weekends and skimming the surf in his Beechcraft Bonanza (giving my mother a fright).  Leaving the cottage after breakfast and being dragged reluctantly off the beach for dinner.  Paddling out beyond the breakers and floating on a raft for hours (pre-Jaws).  Falling asleep in a giant Adirondack chair on a deck overlooking the ocean, my long hair sticky and hopelessly tangled with salt.

I hope my children think well of this place I hold so dear; however, I don’t hold out too much hope.  When asked if they wanted to try to rent a cottage there next summer, both declared it the most boring place on earth.  What is wrong with these people?

I’ll be back!

I will make the 13 hour drive – alone if I have to.  And, I’m taking the puppy.  You people are on your own.

[Note:  we don’t have a puppy.  But, if we did…]

Next stop:  Washington DC  – home town!