Remember—perhaps from a movie— when people went on vacation, came home, and turned their pictures into slides? Then they’d invite all of their friends over for dinner, and when the lights went down, the guests were suddenly gripped by that trapped feeling, knowing that their hosts would show every last one of them on the wall, complete with rambling reminiscences. How times have changed! Now I’ll just post them on my blog, and if you feel compelled to scroll down quickly, just looking at the pictures, I’ll never know. The downside is that if you treat my prose in such a cavalier manner, don’t imagine that you’re getting dinner from me.
Here we are, marooned on a stormy island, waves crashing against the shore, rain and spray coating the windows, and all the seafood shops shut up tightly for the winter. We’ve made Italian food, Mexican food, and barbecued ribs, but no seafood. This afternoon we scoured the island for a piece of fish, the Atlantic Ocean visible on both sides of the road, but apparently fishermen spend the winter in Arizona. On the upside, this house is incredible, and my realtor husband reports that the tax value is $2.3 million. It has five floors, eight bedrooms, ten bathrooms, and the kitchen is on the fourth floor. All of us have labored up the stairs to the fifth floor, thinking that we’re going to bed, only to find ourselves blinking and confused in the Martini Lounge. Bedrooms are on the second and third floors.
The second day we were here, my sister received a phone call from the neighbor who was watching her little, elderly dog, Putt-Putt. The Great Dane, Hrothgar, is here with us. Karen thought that Putt-Putt would be more comfortable in his familiar surroundings, but her neighbor reported that he was missing, and there was a small hole dug under the back fence. It was agonizing for my sister to realize that she could not go home until Saturday, since no one can get a ferry reservation for this week any longer. We cried and prayed a good bit, imagining Putt-Putt struggling to find his family. After twenty-four hours, we were giving up hope that a ten-year-old dog with stiff joints could possibly still be running, when my oldest niece called. She had gone to the house and found Putt-Putt hiding out in the back of my sister’s walk-in closet. He’s a crotchety old thing who had decided that he didn’t like the neighbor, so he wouldn’t come when she called, but he was deliriously relieved to see Kelly, and my sister got her vacation back.
We went down to the beach Monday, but realized that the tide was almost completely in and it was freezing! The only horse we saw running on the beach was Hrothgar. Tuesday, we made it to Hatteras Lighthouse, which everyone really enjoyed. Some of us who are lighthouse lovers (me) enjoyed it just for itself, others were fascinated by the history laid out in the museum building, and still others by the engineering feat accomplished when they had to move the lighthouse to higher ground, since beach erosion was eating the foundation away at the original site.
In the middle of that night, we heard my mother screaming our names. We all ran and stumbled to her room, hair in our faces and nightclothes askew. Turns out that our power was out, which doesn’t seem like much of a problem at that time of night, but Mom had woken up to go to the bathroom and realized that both of her lamps had stopped working. When flashlights arrived, she asked what time it was, and my sister said, “3:40 AM.” “Oh!” she said brightly, “What were y’all doing?”
My eighteen-year-old niece, Hannah, spent hours and hours curled up in a sleeping bag in the media room (I must have one in my house!), falling in love with Downton Abbey. She watched both seasons in two days and nights, and is now as eager for January as the rest of us.
Thanksgiving Dinner! Here’s our lovely, long table, covered with beach-themed tableware. Everybody pitched in, making favorite casseroles and desserts. My sister is the family turkey carver, and she worked on one counter while my mom started the gravy, putting the big bowl of stock in the sink and walking away to get flour. My sister finished the turkey, walked over to the sink and washed her hands. Yes, into the stock. Good thing Mom had more stock in the fridge, lest our Thanksgiving gravy have a scintilla of coconut liquid soap.
If you are ever on Hatteras Island, you must go to Café 12 in Avon for their specialty, the Hatteras Flat. We’d read about it in the guest book and headed down there on the night before Thanksgiving, when we were all sick of cooking. It starts with a spicy tortilla, mounded with cheese and your choice of toppings, including scallops, tomatoes, and feta cheese or crabmeat, portabella mushrooms, and artichoke hearts. My twelve-year-old nephew, John, had the Parrothead, which is basically a cheeseburger on a tortilla. They cook them on a big grill, and the cheese melts out to form a wide, lacy border of toasted cheese all the way around. We thought they’d be individual servings, since they’re one tortilla each, but they come in a big pizza box, cut into eight slices each. David and I ate the last four slices for breakfast Saturday morning.
David and I spent the last day in Ocracoke, which the travel brochures would describe as a “quaint village.” It is much simpler and less commercial than Hatteras Island, and can only be reached by ferry from any direction. Golf carts and bicycles terrify drivers on the narrow, winding streets, and there are small bed-and-breakfasts and tiny shops tucked in everywhere. We went to the lighthouse, which is rather squat, but is the second-oldest lighthouse still in use in the United States. Next, we went to Books to Be Red & Deepwater Pottery, where we purchased the required Christmas ornament, a vacation tradition for us. It’s a pottery starfish that says “Ocracoke.” (Our tree would not be found in Martha Stewart Living.) Several locals, beginning on the ferry on our first day, had recommended the Topless Oyster Bar. After I’d been reassured that it’s just the oysters that are topless, we ventured in. The atmosphere was very low-key—one might almost say non-existent—but the food was excellent and we enjoyed the music. I had Oysters Mon Louis, with garlic and parmesan, and David had a Po’ Boy that was amazing.
I have counted it up, and we spent a total of 14 hours and 45 minutes (not including drive time) either on a ferry or waiting for a ferry, so now I am a true veteran. The NC Dept. of Transportation Ferry Division is full of very nice seafaring types who have somehow still not learned how to control tides and shallow water to my convenience. Since they do this every day, you’d think they would be more advanced by now. I mean, it’s the 21st century, for heaven’s sake. The two-and-a-half hour trip from Ocracoke to the mainland is quite beautiful, really, and features a comfortable passenger lounge with restrooms, coffee, and two decks for picture taking and seagull feeding. My son, Michael, has a very spiffy camera, so the best photos are his. I’ll leave you with seagulls and sunsets while I continue unpacking and cleaning the rotted vegetables out of the fridge.