Archived Opinion

Making new memories during Easter week

Making new memories during Easter week

Growing up, we had a little blue and white camper at Ocean Lakes Campground in Surfside Beach, South Carolina. It was our go-to place for every vacation. 

My parents were teachers with second jobs, so we didn’t go on too many extravagant trips during my youngest years. When I got older, we traveled more extensively. We went to New York City a couple of times, took a three-week cross country trip, and went to Hawaii and Europe, among other things. 

I completely credit my mom and dad for my adventurous spirit and love of travel, but as a small girl, my fondest vacation memories were spent in a tiny camper where my sister and I slept on bunk beds built into the side of a wall. 

We had no phone or TV, but we ate a lot of watermelon and played board games for hours on end. I couldn’t have been happier. 

With Easter and spring break on the horizon, I’ve got those beach trips on my mind. Easter week was always spent at Ocean Lakes. With all four of us following the school system schedule, spring break was full-on family time where we cold relax without a care in the world other than avoiding sunburn and mosquito bites. 

When school let out on Friday, we loaded up the station wagon — including our two banana-seat bicycles — and headed south. Our first stop when we arrived at Surfside was Kroger. We three girls would hang out in the car while my dad ran inside to get drinks, chips, deli meat, bread, cereal and milk. I’m sure he was also getting some Coors Lite for himself and wine coolers for my mom.  We were on vacation, after all. 

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We would then get everything in our camper ready for the week. For seven days straight we relaxed, read books, played in the sand, laughed, grilled out and enjoyed the simple joy and excitement of a middle-class family vacation. 

There were occasional minor catastrophes. Like one time I fell asleep and a wad of gum fell out of my mouth and stuck in my hair. We couldn’t get it out so a haircut ensued. Another time I got into a bike accident that badly scraped my entire left side, so sand and salt water were miserable that year. Then another time we forgot to spring our clocks forward so we missed a sunrise Easter egg hunt which mortified my mother and devastated my sister and me. 

But for the most part, those beach trips were utterly wonderful. I feel like as people grow and are more and more weathered by life, it’s hard to get back to simple pleasures we enjoyed as kids. 

Jumping waves, throwing baseball in the backyard, putting on talent shows for one another, reading multiple books in a day, catching fireflies, roasting marshmallows. 

At 38, I sometimes feel really old. Last weekend, I was around some college kids and they made me feel ancient. 

I’ve felt the weight of many things on me recently. I miss my mom terribly for so many reasons. Grief is funny like that. I’ll be OK for a good long while and then wham, my chest feels like it’s going to break open with the pressure of sadness. 

I’m also experiencing a lot of mom guilt lately because of my marital separation. It’s hard being away from my little boys, but I’m so proud of the way they are adjusting to everything. They inspire me with their strength and resiliency. 

My family has only been back to Ocean Lakes campground one time in a decade and that was to send my mom’s ashes out to sea in August 2016. 

She’d never told us what she wanted to happen when she passed away, but then through a completely organic conversation about a month before her death, she told me she wanted to be cremated and her ashes scattered over Surfside Beach where the four of us made so many wonderful memories. 

At that point, she was very sick, so while this was hard to hear, it felt good to know what she wanted. 

Easter is this Sunday. The boys and I have created our own traditions with our closest friends. Every year, we go to Long’s Chapel’s big worship service at Lake Juansluska and then we spend the rest of the day at someone’s house eating brunch, toasting with mimosas, hosting an Easter egg hunt and just being together and letting the kids run wild and have fun. 

Various people come each year. Sometimes grandparents or family members are in town and join us. The group of friends often grows or shrinks, although a core group of us always attends. 

I know my boys are happy and they are enjoying their childhood Easters as much as I enjoyed mine. I work every day to be grateful for the blessings I have and to not think about the grief and guilt. 

As I continue through this holiday week, I’ll be thinking fondly of those seashore memories. And I’m hopeful for some moments where I can eat a little watermelon and catch a few fireflies.

(Susanna Barbee is the digital media specialist for Mountain South Media and The Smoky Mountain News and an associate editor for Smoky Mountain Living magazine. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

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