Daddy asked me, “When are you coming to visit us this summer?” At the time, the van was running. I knew I had to make plans. “Swim team season ends around July 4th. Joy will participate in a three-week long drama camp beginning July 5th. So, mark your calendar for the first week of August.”
I had it all planned out: visit with Mom and Dad, head over to St. Andrews for a few days and then back to Recovery to finish out our visit. The build up was huge. As I shared plans with Joy, she stopped me to ask,
“Where is St. Andrews?”
(Glory, 9, left, on one of our last family trips to St. Andrews
Joy, 11, right, this summer standing in almost the same spot on the beach)
St. Andrews was our summer family camping spot for years. While we lived in Albany and Bainbridge (a total of five years), we went down to St. Andrews at least once or twice a summer. Joy slept in a pack-n-play crib in the tent and on the beach. The jetty there protected her when she first learned to love the salt water. St. Andrews State Park is the place her brother learned to skim board. And Glory loved to snorkel. H.o.w. could Joy NOT remember St. Andrews?
taken the same day that the photo above of Glory was taken …)
Yet, it is history now. St. Andrews is where we u.s.e.d to go as a family.
It is where memories were made.
But, it is a long driving distance from our Augusta home today
and it is a long distance from the place – the world – in which we live today.
Glory and James are grown. And Joy and I are carving our own camping memories that look very different from those that saturate my memory of “family” past.
As the summer steamed by, I camped and ziplined with Stone after Stone joined Joy and I at Mistletoe State Park. When he extended the invitation for us to join him and Jet at St. Andrews, I wasn’t about to turn him down. He’s adventurous and much braver than I am … after all – he’s a guy. He was planning to snorkel inside AND outside the jetty at the park. I knew we would hike and bike, have fun and eat well. Joy agreed; she likes Stone …. “Take him up on the offer!”
Just before school began, from mid-day Monday until late Wednesday afternoon, we played hard in the Florida panhandle.
Shortly after we arrived, we headed over to the jetty. Stone was quick to begin investigating the gorgeous rocks that were brought in from Alabama to create a barrier from the channel. It was so neat to see Stone’s excitement as he pointed out different plants and creatures that died and were entombed inside what is now a boulder mausoleum. It’s so cool to see someone enthusiastic about the world around us and teaching others to enjoy and appreciate it.
We snorkeled several times and enjoyed seeing all sorts of creatures and finned life. I don’t remember seeing as great an array of fish in the past. There were raccoon, dolphin and a diversity of beautiful birds, including this Great White Heron.
We hiked, explored and rode bikes. There wasn’t really any “sitting still” time, to be honest … which was perfectly okay.
We walked scrub trails through the arid afternoon. I was amazed to watch Stone stop and read every information marker. We investigated the plants and wildlife and discussed the topics well. He was interested in learning more and saw the stop as welcome rather than cumbersome. This was so refreshing to me. I’ve always been the one to feel like I was “in trouble” for stopping to read, for investigating and for taking photographs (all of which would slow down any family movement). It was so refreshing to be able to explore and question … without worry of irritation.
This was the first time that Joy and I had the chance to meet Stone’s son, Jet (our trip to Wakulla was later in the week). I wasn’t sure how Joy and Jet would get along, but there was enough of an age difference (Jet is seven while Joy is almost twelve) that they got along really well. Jet is old enough that the two played card cards and played with puzzle games together, but Joy wasn’t old enough that she found Jet “too young” for her.
I’m thankful for Stone … for sharing his vacation time us. I’m thankful that the boys – with their “rough around the edges” style – add a dimension to our travels that we miss when it’s a “girls only” trip. I’m thankful for “biceps” that can lift things more heavy than I’m able. And I’m grateful for the protection found simply in a man’s presence.
And, frankly, I’m simply thankful to have the time to spend with Stone. He’s been a friend for decades … though out of touch for a long while. I felt comfortable with him way back in college … and I feel just as at ease now. Our passion for the outdoors is parallel and our conversation is easy. Many of our likes and dislikes are similar – from our love of rocks to our ideas about frugality, from our ability to make friends with anyone who is close-by to our active lifestyle … we are similar.
As the summer cools into fall, I am thankful for blue skies, changing tides and creating new memories in old, familiar places.