Monday, August 11, 2008

Random Notes from Ocracoke

We descended for the 6th year to Ocracoke Island off the coast of NC. This island is only accessible by ferry. The route we take puts us on a 2 hour 15 minute ferry ride. It was interesting to see Lily look at this trip from completely new eyes. It was like the veil had been lifted and she was experiencing everything for the first time. She couldn't understand how we would get our car onto the ferry asking, “Do they hook us onto the boat?” She also couldn't grasp the concept of an “island.” She started crying our first morning because we told her we were going to the beach. On Ocracoke you have to drive out on the beach. There are no hotels or houses on the beach. She was crying while stammering, “I don’t want to leave the island.” But, now, at the end of the week, she understands.

The week has been filled with wonderful memories. We are finally getting to the point that I can sit down and do a little reading while watching the kids. I am not on a crazed, constant running, completely unrelaxing jaunt. And people ask me if we are going to have any more kids?

Most of our days have been spent on the beach. We pack the car (Grand-D’s 4x truck) and lunches and head out for the day. This year there haven’t been the schools of little fish or the shelling we are used to and that has been a little disappointing, but we have seen quite a few dolphins. We watched a man land a 60 lb. (5’) ray which was quickly cut and released. It took him a very long time and we have heard they are some of the toughest fighters. But it was a cool experience and then a little creepy thinking that was lurking out there! Luckily, we hang in the tidal pools and the shallow side. The weather has been lovely on the beach with a wonderful, constant breeze. I hear there is a heat wave going on at home so am glad we are here.

The kids, particularly Ethan, have been focused on shopping, too. That is something new. But, I recall Colby did the same thing around this age. Of course, we made the obligatory trip to Teach’s Lair (aka the pirate store). Ocracoke’s most famous resident was Black Beard (aka Edward Teach). Sadie and Lily got “jewels” in a little velvet bag. They have a large bin with varying colored plastic jewels and coins. Every year it has been the same thing for Sadie and I spend until October market cleaning them up. Then they find a permanent home in her junk box or else wind up in the trash. This year Lily is mesmerized by the jewels. I think she believes they are real. Ethan bought, with his own money, a new cap gun or rather, a large rifle. Before anyone stands in judgment about this, they haven’t been around boys very long. Even when you try to keep them away from “violent toys,” they will find a stick and turn it into some type of weapon.

We met a local family that our kids have just made instant buddies with –MacKenzie and Chandler. McKenzie is in between Ethan and Sadie and Chandler is Lily’ age. One characteristic trait that is developing in Lily is her ability to become friends instantly with other kids. She is drawn to her peers and they are immediately, “her best friend.” She will discard her own siblings in a nanosecond especially if that “new best friend” is a boy. Should I be concerned? She is going to be our social one and probably will be the one with “needs improvement” under unnecessary talking on her report card. I have no idea who she gets that from! Ha!

Yesterday the O’Neals came to swim with us at our pool. The kids had a great time. Sadie and McKenzie exchanged addresses. I think it will be fun for them to write to each other. I bet Ethan will join in as well. I got my first pen pal in 3rd grade and it was so much fun to get mail. Life on the island is so different than for us and I imagine the children will enjoy hearing about how different their lives are despite living only 5 hours apart (plus ferry). We made plans to see them next year – fun! Sadly, I think I forgot to get a single picture! What was I thinking?!?

On Tuesday night, we went to the volunteer fire station for bingo. We almost didn’t get in this year, there was quite a line (they max out at 100). They are raising money for a new fire station which is really important in an isolated island like this. If a fire becomes uncontrollable, supplemental help takes a long time to arrive. Last year, at bingo, we racked in the money as I think almost everyone won something. This year, lucky Sadie won the second game, playing all by herself. Three other people won as well so the winnings were rather small ($5). But it all worked out as Ethan won a door prize to the Sweet Tooth (candy store) for $5. We need to go spend that gift certificate! Bingo started at 7:30 and we didn’t get home until around 10 as in previous years. It makes for a fun, but long night. Sadie actually fell asleep during the second to last game and I had to finish it up for her. Lily was really good, playing with her crayons and m&ms. Ethan was just steady freddy, occasionally getting overwhelmed by the speed of the caller. He was in “his zone” just watching everything going on around him and not totally paying attention to the game.

Lily has really taken to the pool. She wouldn’t put her face in the water a couple of weeks ago – Jay took care of that before we left. She wouldn’t leave the steps when we arrived, but now, with the aid of a life vest, she is swimming all over the place and jumping in. I hope next summer that we will have a more consistent swimming location and they can all improve on their abilities. Ethan and Sadie swim and jump in everywhere without any aides, but I would like their strokes and confidence to improve.

Life here is so simple. I don’t know of another place that puts me in such a relaxed state. We tend to stay at a place that has few units (maybe 10) of which several are contracted with the Coast Guard. There are few, if any, other people at the pool almost making it our own private oasis. The tourists that stay on the island tend to appreciate its beauty and they take care of it. Our unit barely looks lived in and I know it has been rented out for at least 3 years. The shops are quaint and I can always find unique gifts for the kids.

Ansley is here. I have not yet ventured to Springer’s Point to “visit.” I don’t know what is holding me back except the mosquitoes. They are a little vicious this year and I hate the smell of the bug spray – I think cancer is growing just by smelling it. However, I might make a trek out there in the morning.

Yesterday we messed around in the village getting snow-cones made with finely shaved ice. We manage to snag a great picnic table right by the harbor. The breeze was blowing and the weather couldn’t have been better. I could have sat there all day. Like the monkey she is Sadie found some great trees to climb and I got some great pictures. The camera battery went out this morning and I forgot the charger. Thankfully, it is the last day.

I dread packing up and heading out tomorrow. I love this place. Wish every place had this rhythm of life.

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