I will be on vacation the week of the 6th. While I am gone, I thought I would run some of my favorite posts from the past 6 months.
This one wasn't a blog post but an actual newspaper article from 1999. I post it in case anyone is ever at a loss for where to go on vacation. We have now been 32 years in the same place; the same block, to be exact. It is increasingly difficult to coordinate all the adult schedules of our kids -- but this was a year when it all worked out to be in the same place at the same time. However, if you go, remember that indoor showers and long pants are banned.
Traveler's Guide to Buxton, NC
August 31, 1999
Every summer, we go to Buxton, and we've been doing so for almost 20 years. No matter what.
To be honest, we don't really go for the excitement. We could probably win a "Most Boring Visitor" contest each year if one were held.
We do pretty much do the same things every year. We rent a house in Buxton. We go to breakfast at the Orange Blossom. We go to the beach for three and a half hours in the morning to try and work off the Apple Uglies. We break for lunch, which is almost always grilled cheese sandwiches, broiled in the oven with a sliced tomato on the top. We go back to the beach for another session in the afternoon. Then off to dinner, usually to Billy's. After dinner, down to Frisco for a snowball - it's got to be Hatteras style - and then back to the house and to bed.
Oh yes, one more thing. About mid-week each year, we all go for a walk down the beach -- to the lighthouse. It started out with just my wife and me. The number of participants in the trek has gradually expanded over the years with kids and cousins and grandparents to a small gang.
During the years when lighthouse is open, we climb to the top. Of course, this is only after swearing testimonials to the Park Service volunteer on duty. "Yes, I solemnly swear that this 5 year old can, in fact, climb to the top under their own power." We go over to the museum, and go through the exhibits. I tell my kids stories about how my father - whom two of them never got a chance to meet -- served on a four-stack destroyer off the North Carolina coast during World War II, watching for German submarines.
Day after day. Year after year. And now, decade after decade. I guess you could say that no matter how much I change from year to year - no matter how much older or fatter or grayer I get - it seems that Buxton doesn't change. And that's fine with me.
Until this year, that is.
For the first few days this year, I simply couldn't get over the fact that the lighthouse wasn't there anymore. Not only had it been moved. And not only was the light temporarily off. But most startling, you couldn't even see it from the beach.
It was kind of like the reverse of all the fancy computer enhancements they now do so routinely. You know the ones, where they insert some new person or object into a picture like they did in "Forrest Gump." You see an old film clip of some event from the sixties, and all of a suddenly, there's Tom Hanks, magically inserted into the background. It looks so real that you almost come to believe it, but in the back of your mind you know that something is not quite right.
Sitting on the beach the first few days this year, I got the feeling that someone had just airbrushed the lighthouse - my lighthouse -- out. Things just didn't feel right. I got a gnawing feeling of imbalance, and spent the first few days just plain mad at the whole situation.
On the last day of vacation, I had a catch with my almost 15 year old, something that we have done hundreds of times. Between throws, I looked up somewhat surreptitiously, expecting the lighthouse to magically reappear in its familiar place at the last moment before we left. Kind of a Governor's Reprieve, phoned in at the last second. But it didn't.
And then it struck me that this picture as well - the two of us having a catch - a picture which at one time seemed like it would go on forever - will be changing as well.
My mind drifted back to another time on the beach, when he was about seven. He is the pitcher and I'm the catcher.
"OK, Dad. Now here are the signs. Use one finger for a fastball, two for a slider, three for a knuckleball, four for a curve, five for a change, and six for a knuckle-curve."
He gets mad if I don't keep them all straight. He peers in for the sign, nods his head very seriously like those guys on television, and then proceeds to throw the same straight, looping pitch in time after time after time. Each time, he asks how much the pitch moves. Each time, I lie with a straight face.
Now, seemingly in a blink of the eye, he throws harder than I do. This year, he threw one pitch so hard I thought he had broken a bone in my hand. I find myself throwing what I think are a variety of impressive pitches, all looking remarkably alike, while he can now throw a pretty good knuckleball and a reasonable curve. I try to stretch this time out, long after we would normally return to the beach house. I wonder how many more times we will do this, conscious of the fact in another blink he will be gone and off to college. Or worse, simply "too old" to be interested in having a catch on the beach with his father.
When we get back to the beach house, after I take my outdoor shower - another tradition, absolutely no indoor showers during the entire time at the beach - I look around at the house and my wife and my kids. I try to freeze this snapshot in memory, painfully conscious of exactly how precious this place and these people are to me. But also aware that if something as fixed and immovable as a lighthouse can change, this picture is even more fragile and fleeting.
And in a curious way, perhaps the "old" lighthouse - the unchangeable one I could always see from the beach, in the same place, year after year - has imparted one last gift. A reminder that things do in fact change, however much I might like to deny it.
But it sure felt a lot more comfortable the old way.