Riding to the beach

This is our first beach vacation in two years. I finished reading ‘our’ book, Farther Along: The Writing Journey of Thirteen Bereaved Mothers, on the way. Although I’ve read these stories and heard them read, mine, and my Sol Sisters’, many times, Carol mended them together so beautifully. Raw tears, real laughter, sighs of “Oh yeah, I remember that feeling” came again and again!

It felt good to have more than what little time I’m allotted as a mother of a six-year-old when school’s out for summer allows! Hope’s buckled in the backseat, asking for the umpteenth time, “Are we there yet?” I’m ignoring her, mostly. Telling her to take a nap to ‘get there sooner’!

Ironically, Blaine came the highway route. You know, where you drive through every little podunk town there is. But it gave me time to reflect on drives to Myrtle Beach when the boys were little. What car games we played, how often did I intervene to settle a squabble, how many times did one of them ask, “Are we there yet?”

We stopped to buy peaches, tomatoes, and muscadines at one of the roadside stands…probably one we stopped at for many years with the boys. An old transistor radio duct-taped to the wall above the tomatoes caught my attention. A country music song, a popular one but I can’t recall the name or singer was playing…one about reuniting with our loved ones who’ve gone on someday. Made me smile.

After Blaine returned from what he called a mile walk from the PortaJohn, we were on our way again. Radio is playing a remake of a Hall and Oates (1980) song by Paul Young that was one of my favorites played on the ‘oldies’ station entitled “‘Every Time You Go Away.” Another memory rushes back. Singing it on the way to the beach! I even remember what I was wearing! 22 years ago! Wes was 5; Andy was 2 1/2!

Hope has finally given up–she’s asleep. Would the boys have fallen asleep by now, 22 years ago? More than likely. Maybe not, we just passed the old cotton press on Hwy. 38. They always loved seeing that old thing!

In August 2001, we made our way down Hwy. 17 from Long Beach to Myrtle Beach to finish up our vacation at The Sun Fun Hotel, in the heart of town. We wanted to jostle the boys’ memories of where we used to vacation…and to ‘help’ them appreciate the fact that we could now afford better accommodations! Farther back than that, my parents allowed Blaine to join our family for vacation in 1978. That was where we stayed.

We didn’t have a clue that would be our last beach trip with our sons in August of 2001.

In July 1987, when 7 months pregnant with Andy, we went there with a family of our own. We remembered the baby pool and knew that it would be fun for Wes, who was two. It was! We decided to come back the next summer, bringing my mother to help with our now three-year-old and nine-month-old. We made wonderful memories there–coming back with another family from Winston-Salem for many years. Richard and Kathy and their three children, whose sons were our boys’ best friends, came one year as well. Photographs document those memories–sand-covered bodies and sticky faces, all smiling.

We even met two older girls whose families had met there when they were toddlers, one from West Virginia, one from Virginia. Their names were Melanie and Susan. They became our children’s ‘beach babysitters’. Every summer for the next four years we made sure our reservations were for the same week! (I am now Facebook friends with both of them.)

I recall leaving one Sunday morning to return home after our traditional breakfast at a well-established, locally-owned pancake house. Andy was wailing loudly, “We won’t see Susan and Mel-wanieeee for long time”! Susan and Melanie are now probably in their early thirties. I called Susan’s mother years ago, after finding their phone number in an old wallet, and told them about Wes and Andy’s deaths. One of many hard phone calls.

We reconnected several years ago after I became a Facebook follower. One Saturday afternoon I received a message from ‘Susan Leonard Phillips’ asking, “Are you the ‘Beverly Burton’ that used to vacation at The Sun Fun Motel many, many years ago?”

“Yes!” I typed furiously, giving her my cell number. A while later she called and we caught up, learning that both she and Melanie had families. We tried to plan a simultaneous beach meeting, but it didn’t pan out. Keeping up through Facebook became ‘good enough,’ although we seldom sent personal messages.

(Temporary hold on this story…Hope needs some attention…time to read to her for a while)

Last day of vacation
August 1, 2012

When I began this story on the way to Cherry Grove Beach I was yet to discover that God re-gifts!

As a very small family with a very small extended family, I sometimes feel very sorry for myself. Hope does fine without doting grandparents, although she has a Papa and a Memaw. I wish they doted. And her only living aunt, my sister, isn’t able to take her out for ice cream, movies, and all the other things that I know my sister would have done if she were well. We are such a unique family, given that we’re in our mid-fifties with a 6-year-old; simply put, we just don’t have lots of families inviting us to vacation with them…zero actually…hence my pity parties.

So, we make the best of it. I don’t mean to sound as if I’m whining. We both truly know what it means to make ‘the best of IT’! I think we’re pretty good at IT!

After checking into our room we made our way to the waves. Snapping a pic of Hope with my cell and, as a renewed Facebook addict since moving from our hometown of almost 32 years just 3 1/2 months, I posted it immediately and entitled it “We’re here!”

Around lunchtime on Saturday I noticed that a reply to my post had appeared. It read, “Are you at the beach?”

I replied quickly, “Yes, we’re at Cherry Grove!”

The post was from Susan Leonard Phillips…THE SUSAN from our Sun Fun Motel vacation days! And not only was her family going to be there, so was Melanie’s!

After twenty years we would be united with two very special young women, whom we’ve ‘known’ since they were just eight years old.

I believe with all my heart that sometimes God weaves people in-and-out of our lives, in His perfect timing.

On Monday evening at 8pm we met Susan and Melanie and their families at Painter’s Ice Cream Shop, an establishment that has been in business and run by the same family for sixty years! Our families picked up where we left off, just configured a little differently. We were invited to go back to their condo at Barefoot Landing to meet the menfolk and enjoy fireworks together. Melanie’s son is six, so He and Hope became fast friends. Susan’s twelve-year-old daughter came running onto the deck stating, “I think Hope and Brackston are boyfriend and girlfriend, but Hope said, ‘Don’t tell my Daddy!'”(Oh boy, fun times to come!)

The next day we spent the afternoon at the huge pool at their condo complex, again ‘picking up where we left off’, as Susan accounted.

Our vacation would have still been fun without this God-ordained reunion, but because of His perfect timing, He re-gifted the best present ever–the friendship of two sweet little girls who grew into amazing women and mothers!