Every year Joyce and I go to the beach for a 3 night/4 day weekend. This was our 16th time – the only time we’ve missed was in 2020. We somehow made it back in 2021 even though Covid was still hanging around.
I would like to say that we shed the trappings and obligations of our normal lives and step out into adventure, but we don’t. We step into another routine. Our vacation routine. We each take the same clothes with us, the same coolers, chairs, beach umbrellas. We drive the same route.
We always used to stop at the same place for lunch: Sahara’s. Where, unbeknownst to me, I always ordered the same Greek food. When it closed after 30 years, we were bereft, and we have struggled in the subsequent years to find a new place. This has actually shaken my faith a little. I’ve always tried to convince myself not to hold on too tightly. Change can be good. There can be bigger and better things ahead when you let go of the past. Hmm. Maybe not?
We stay in the same motel, which, by today’s standards would be considered a ramshackle, but it’s super clean and has the best balcony ever. It’s a motel for fishermen, so it’s attached to a pier which is run by the grumpiest old man on the planet. At home, I would find this intolerable, but here I find it charming.
Here’s where the real routine begins. Joyce is a night owl and a late sleeper, who only drinks decaf. I know. Please pray for her. And I am an early riser who desperately needs a hot cup of high octane.
In order not to wake her, I tiptoe out of the room and down to the pier where Mr. Grumpy will not make eye contact as he barks out, “What do you want?“ And in response to my answer of “large coffee“ he continues barking, “$2.14.” That is the extent of our exchange; I used to try to make him smile. I took it as a challenge, but somehow I fear that if he became the chatty/friendly type, his coffee might suffer, and that would be tragic because he makes a mean cup of coffee.
On the last day of our trip, as I was making my way back from the pier and planning to tiptoe through the bare-bones room and straight onto the balcony to sit and watch the ocean and listen to the birds, I noticed something.
The parking lot was predominantly filled with pick up trucks. Not unusual since most of the guests are there for the fishing. Here’s what’s odd and knocked me off balance. In the bed of almost every truck was at least hundreds, if not thousands of dollars’ worth of fishing gear. Rods and reels, tackle boxes, nets, coolers, those little trailers that they load up to transport all the paraphernalia needed for the sport. And there it all was, sitting out in the open overnight, easy pickings for anyone with sticky fingers.
But that’s the beauty of this place for most people it seems. When the pace of life and the demands on our time get to be too much, we long for a simpler time. In all honesty I’m not sure it ever really was the way we picture it in our minds, but this place might be close. We wax nostalgic for the good old days. A time when families ate dinner together, a time when the kids played outside with the other neighborhood children, and in this day and age, what we long for most might be the safety people felt: a time when no one locked their doors.
I’ve never been able to put into words the respite I feel at Topsail Beach, but maybe that is it in a nutshell. I sense a time gone by. And maybe that’s what I caught a glimpse of in the parking lot: a scene that looked an awful lot like “the good old days”.