Bay's Travel Blog

I don't travel much any more. Resist!

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Day 5 -- Two Sarahs

Friday, August 19th

Although I woke up several times between 5:00 and 7:00, I managed to get lots of sleep anyway and awoke for good at 7:30. Wesley was still too full from dinner at Po' Pigs the night before to even contemplate breakfast, so we made coffee and that was it.

When the kids woke up around 8:30, I made toast for them. Oooo! The work! The effort! The enormous mess I made!!!! OK, I'm kidding. It was a typical Bay-size breakfast. And they complained. Wesley spoiled them with his humongous breakfasts with 18 different items on the menu.

I would be mad at him, but to be honest, he did all the laundry all week long and he always cleaned up after his huge breakfasts. So it wasn't as if I weren't relaxing on my vacation, even if he *did* keep making huge breakfasts.

I was determined to go to the beach on this day. The weather was actually fairly pleasant, and we leapt into our swimsuits and headed to the shore around 9:30 in the morning, where the tide was fairly high and the water was cooler than it had been a couple of days before. Very refreshing! My favorite part was that there was hardly anyone on the beach when I got there. In point of fact, Wesley got there before me, and he was ecstatic that I -- for once -- didn't delay so long that I missed him. He stayed with me.

The ocean was calm, and soon more people were joining us on the beach. August is getting more crowded on Edisto. Bummer.

I'm not sure how long we stayed, because I wasn't looking at a watch, but after a while we went back to the house. And oh, I had another outdoor, enclosed, hot-and-cold shower. Y'all. Seriously. I love these things. They're just so perfect, and you have a far lower chance of getting caught naked when they're enclosed like that.

I've totally neglected to talk about the lot across the dirt road from our rental house. Last year, this whole block was a sedate little berm of palmettos and cassinas and well-kept, natural vegetation. It was almost like a little park. We couldn't see the houses on Jungle Road because of the trees.

The first day we arrived, it was like that. On Tuesday, little pink surveyors' flags appeared. On Wednesday, heavy machinery showed up. By Friday, the palmettos were biting the dust and being chewed up by giant wood-chippers. I cannot tell you how much I hate it. Hello, development. Goodbye, civilization.

By Friday morning, we could clearly see the houses on Jungle Road. I have no idea what they're going to build in that little lot, but I'm betting it's just another rental house or three. Bummer. I'm going to have to start staying on some other undeveloped island at this rate.

Anyway, we all took outdoor showers, and got dressed for lunch.

Last year, we happened to get lunch on Friday at the Edisto Beach Grille and Cafe. This restaurant is right next to the Piggly Wiggly and looks like the worst greasy-spoon dive ever. As usual, the appearance is deceiving, and it's actually a perfect restaurant for us. Anyway, because we were there on a Friday, we discovered that they have a seafood special on Fridays... which includes hushpuppies. And *these* are the real thing. The real, *real* real thing. Go back fifty years -- go back seventy years -- go back a hundred years, and the hushpuppies you would have gotten then are the hushpuppies that you can get at the Edisto Beach Grille and Cafe on Fridays. So with this knowledge, I knew I had to go on Friday this year, and we had planned our entire itinerary around this lunch.

The seafood is a fried fish. I have no idea what the fish is, and usually I eschew fried fish, but... again, this is the real thing. This is fried fish like I haven't had since I was 8 years old and my parents took me to a shack in the Georgia woods where they served nothing but fried fish and frogs legs. I ordered the special, and the rest of my clearly insane, unbalanced, tasteless family got ordinary food off the menu. Grilled cheese or shrimp burgers or something. Who knows? Who cares? My meal was quite clearly the best one there.

While we were eating, Miss Sarah came out to ask us how the food was. Miss Sarah is the real thing, too. She's about 80 years old and has the most serious Gullah accent left on the island. In public, that is. I'm sure there are plenty of people left who carry on the accent and the customs. But Miss Sarah is the only one you'll see in public during tourist season. I think they are clinging to their way of life, and frankly, that is just fine with me. The Gullah, after all, are the only people who know how to make hushpuppies the right way.

(And if we lose that tradition, then all is lost and we might as well give up on our quest for civilization and start all over again, and all the enclosed, hot-and-cold outdoor showers will not make up for the loss of proper hushpuppies.)

Since Miss Sarah asked, I told her exactly how the food was, and most especially how much I love the hushpuppies. I nearly cried while I told her about how we came to Edisto when I was a little girl, when there was nothing here, and there was a whole different marina and a completely different restaurant there, where my Mama was so enraptured with the hushpuppies, and that when I came back as an adult, all I really wanted was *those* hushpuppies that Mama had loved so much, and how the only place I could find them was here, at the Edisto Beach Grille and Cafe, and on Fridays at that, and that was why I ordered the special and why I was so, so, so completely happy.

Miss Sarah -- Well, she didn't cry, but she was obviously moved by my ranting and raving. She said, "Honey, you come heah. Yes, suh. Yes'm. Miss Sarah gwine tek you somewheh, yes, she is."

I went with Miss Sarah, who took me to the kitchen and introduced me to Mr. Charlie, the cook. Mr. Charlie was clearly very busy. The kitchen was TINY. And every available space seemed to be full of deep-fat fryers. Miss Sarah said, "Mist' Chahlie, heah someone you needs to meet!" And the next thing I knew, I was telling Mr. Charlie the same story I had told Miss Sarah.

Mr. Charlie was too busy to chat, but he expressed gratitude and asked me where I was from. I told him, and then I thanked him again for the stunningly fabulous hushpuppies and said goodbye.

I'll never forget him, or that tiny kitchen, or Miss Sarah. Please, God, don't let the world forget them, either. I have no idea why "progress" always wants to change such things. They are as they should be. Don't teach them proper English, don't hook them up to the Internet, don't tell them that deep-frying is unhealthy. Leave them alone. We're lost without them.

After a while, we could linger no longer. We had watched as many locals come in as we could. There were no other "tourists" around that I could tell, and even the tour guide from the ACE Basin boat tour was there eating lunch. We paid the tab and tipped the waitress -- a shocking $40 again, and I would've paid so much more. OK, the tip was more than 25%. Still, it was an invaluable lunch, and I do so hope Miss Sarah is still there the next time we go.

Dang, I'm crying just thinking about it. Listen -- if you're reading this trip report and thinking, "I need to go there," don't. Just don't. I so don't want Edisto to change, and I'm so afraid that my saying how wonderful it is will change it. Take my word for it. Believe me when I say Miss Sarah was the real thing. Trust me when I say the hushpuppies are sublime. But don't, for heaven's sake, *don't* go there to get them. They'll change if they have to make them by the thousands for tourists.

After lunch, we went to the Edisto Bookstore again, because I wanted to buy some pictures of the Mystery Tree that I had seen there, but the kids drove me to distraction, so we left without buying anything. I went to the antique store next door, which was not closed this time. Unfortunately, it is an antique store, not a junk store, so the prices went with antiques, not junk. That was a disappointment, but I should've expected it. There are hardly any junk stores or junk store prices left any more. I left very quickly, after admonishing my children about 89 times not to touch anything.

Back at the Pink Flamingo, I sat on the porch and listened to the radio for a while. The heat was not so bad this day, and by then, I had learned how to deal with it, anyway. The secret this year was ice water. Get a cup of ice water and a couple of rags. Dip the rags in the ice water and wrap the rag around your neck. Keep the ceiling fan going on high speed. You can deal with the heat and humidity this way. I certainly did, and I am not built to deal with extreme weather.

After a while, I took a short nap and woke up at 2:00. Or so. My notes for this afternoon are exceedingly sketchy and incomplete, and no one is awake to help fill me in on what we did that day. I apparently took another outdoor shower, just for the heck of it. I have no idea what the kids did to pass the time, but by now, it's likely that we were all playing Crazy 8's like mad. I threatened to teach them how to play Hearts, but we're more of a Crazy 8's kind of family. It's not a very serious game. You don't have to strategize a lot. And it depends a lot on luck, so you can get really mad when you lose and throw the cards, and no one's feelings are hurt. OK.... I'm the only one who throws the cards. It's a tradition. I've been throwing cards since I was, oh, 9 or 10 or so.

Around 4:30, I ventured out to the bookstore again, this time by myself. I checked online briefly and bought the photos of the Mystery Tree. (If I find those photos, I'll scan and post, of course, so you can see them, too.) The Mystery Tree is a modern Edisto tradition. I don't know when it started, but *someone* waded out into the marsh and decorated a dead tree one year. The next year, the decorations were changed. Every year, the Mystery Tree is redecorated. It's cool. One year there was a rocking chair hung high in its branches. The story goes that no one knows who decorates the Mystery Tree. I contend that no one could possibly keep a secret that good to herself. It's just that those who know aren't telling, and that's exactly the way it should be.

I also bought a book called "Tales of Edisto." Turns out my mother bought the same book years ago; my sister Martha has a hardbound copy of it at her house. It was first published in the 1950's, but has apparently been edited or revised or something since then. I never started reading the book until the trip home.

The notes for the rest of the day are pretty sketchy. We went to the Ruby Seahorse for dinner again. Hey, man, if it ain't broke....

We stopped at the Piggly Wiggly for something. Then we drove down Palmetto Boulevard, picking out houses we want to own. Woodrow has *excellent* taste in houses. I've taught him well!!!! Mama would be so proud.

On the way around the golf course, a song came on the radio -- again, we were listening to 104.9, The Wave -- and within the first line, I turned up the volume and told Wesley, "This has *got* to be Sarah Bettens' new single." When the chorus came along and this wonderful voice sang, "Things can't get much better/ You might have to stay/ To make sure I never/ Forget about today," I *knew* I was right. And I was. At the end of this lovely song, the DJ confirmed my suspicions. Please keep in mind that I had only heard one Sarah Bettens song *once* before hearing this one. She's really, really, *really* good. Check her out!!!!!

Back at the Pink Flamingo, I hung out on the porch, drank White Russians, and iced my ankle. My ankles, you see, had not recovered from the profound swelling that they'd indulged in when I went to Wisconsin, and they had, in fact, gotten fluffier while I was on Edisto. Still no idea why. The left ankle (like my legally blind eye) was the worst. Ice made the swelling go down *and* it made it feel better.

After Wesley went to bed, the kids and I played Crazy 8's a little. It was fun, but I worried that we got too loud and were going to wake up Wesley. We didn't. I went to bed around 11:15, and my dreams were filled with hushpuppies and flying cards.