Remember that movie about the two women played by Barbara Hershey and Bette Midler who meet one summer as kids on the Jersey shore and who through all of life’s ups and downs remain friends? Sometimes I think that Beaches viewed by a young, impressionable 11-year-old me helped to solidify my love of the beach. A summer spent at the shore where you meet your best friend for life under the boardwalk, it doesn’t get any better than that!
Now I travel with my girls twice a year to take in the sun and the salt that sustained me as a kid. It’s not the Delaware shore of my childhood or the Carolina coast of my college and young adult years. It’s the southern shores of Georgia. The islands with their unkept beaches; their rocks, warm waters and shrimp boats. It’s the place where a boardwalk never existed and where you can walk for a mile on the sandy shoreline without ever seeing another soul.
But it’s not just the barren sandy path that has me come back when the calendar turns the mark on the sixth month. It’s the people, those generous of spirit. The potential for lifelong friends that is fostered by the history and culture of the Georgia coast brings us back.
The “hello ma’am” always draws me in. “Where are you from?” “What brings you to Georgia?”. They always reach out first.
I know that most everyone I meet down here I will end up carrying with me on my journey home. People such as Captain Tim.
Tim’s not a native (in these parts one defines a native as someone whose family has lived on these islands for at least four generations). But he too was lured by the culture (and fishing of course) of this place and now calls it home with his wife and stepchildren.
He and my husband have been fishing together for the last few summers. But this trip they decided to take Sidney. And this happened:
Look at that proud little lady. Captain Tim spent over 4 hours on the boat with her that day along with my husband and his parents. They fished for bait then fished for shark and Sidney had an absolute blast (well until hour 4 when the 90 degree plus day finally got to her). Captain Tim was beyond patient and had just the right mix of education and fun to keep the morning interesting for her. He didn’t coddle my nine-year old but empowered her with his fishing knowledge and his love of this place.
He also helped my husband do this:
Those who know my husband know a smile on his face such as the one pictured above ( you know the kind of smile that is shown on not just your mouth but overtakes your whole face) has only been captured on camera maybe three times since we were married in 1999 (those smiles would be at the births of our girls). According to my mother in law, my husband also spent those four hours learning from the Captain. They talked fishing of course- the tides, the marsh lands and the changes in the geography of this place. And they caught fish (a lot of fish)! Brock came home sunburned and invigorated.
I don’t think I can fully articulate how someone such as Captain Tim goes above and beyond what you ask him to, not because he feels obligated but because the love of this place lives in these people. It becomes tangible when you engage with them. It is a part of their spirit and after a few moments with the Captain Tim’s of Georgia’s Golden Isles their spirit overtakes you as well.
And that my friends is why it’s so hard to leave this place. You long to carry their spirit back with you. In my world of deadlines, highways and highrises, the further you move away from your trip the harder it is to conjure up their spirit.
So we will travel back on the sixth month and we will refuel. Captain Tim will take my family fishing again and those smiles will live for a few more weeks on their faces. No we didn’t meet this lifelong friend under the boardwalk but the salty floors of a fishing boat are just as good.