Sunday, July 4, 2010


This week, I went to Charleston with my husband and youngest son.  Charleston is my father's birthplace, the place where my parents met and married, where we spent almost every New Year's Eve and every weekend from Easter to Labor Day throughout our childhoods, where my aunt and cousins still live.  Although I haven't been there as often in the last 30 years, I have been there many times.  And yet, for some reason, this week the nostalgia hit me like the wall of humidity that greets you when you walk from the air conditioned hotel lobby.

I was there for a conference, and so we were with my boss and his wife and my co-worker and her sister.  Maybe it was sharing memories with them. 

My mother's mother moved to Charleston from Massachusetts when she retired from teaching.  It wasn't until I spent summers with her that I really "did the tourist thing."  Gramma and I walked or rode buses and taxis all over the city.  She took us on the horse and carriage tour of South of Broad.  We'd go to the Market, or even just the Piggly Wiggly on King Street.  And where ever we went, she'd say, "This is Kathy Duffy.  Her uncle is Father Duffy.  Her grandfather was John Duffy the pharmacist.  Did you know him?"  And although it wasn't surprising that everyone knew Uncle Tommy, I was shocked by the number of people who remembered John Duffy the pharmacist.  It was almost enough to break through the soul-deep mortification I felt as a psychotically shy child with a talkative grandmother.  Almost.

On Tuesday afternoon, we drove to Folly Beach.  The road to James Island, where I enjoyed a true childhood with my friends Bernadette, Elizabeth, and Roland, was so different it didn't strike any chords.  Actually, I think it might be an entirely different bridge.  It certainly didn't awake my sleeping child-map that remembers the turns and the Spanish Moss and the Dairy Queen we stopped at once in a while for a rare treat. 

Although Folly Beach isn't a part of the child memories, the ocean and the waves that were.  The waves were breaking in just the right place for some serious wave-riding.  For the first time in 25 years, I didn't stand in the shallows with small children or watching anxiously for potential threats against my fearless sons as they dove into the waves.  Mark and I rode the waves ourselves.  I heard my mother's voice as I said, "Hold up, that one isn't going to break for us."  I saw my awe for my mother reflected in Mark's eyes as he saw I could really tell when the wave would break and when it was faking.  Of course, he didn't say anything.  He was having too much fun, and maybe he didn't realize what an art it is.  I got tossed into the sand with the whole ocean as a Netti pot, and I haven't had such a good time in... 30 years?

Wednesday we went to Sullivan's Island to visit Fort Moultrie, and that is another story...

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