It’s been almost a year since Michael and I last came to the beach house. Returning is filled with uncertainties. I always looked forward to coming here. Especially this time of the year – when most of the vacationers have gone home and we have our little beach town back. The days are cooler and it’s like music to hear the breeze rustle through the palm trees.
I remember in 2001 when we decided it was time to buy our own place here. We’d come here every summer for ten years, renting big houses with other families and creating wonderful memories for all our children. That particular trip we decided to spend some time looking at houses for sale in different neighborhoods and spent a long day with friends getting in and out of the car at every open house sign we saw. As we came through this area, only recently developed, we stopped at a particular house for sale. Michael was tired and didn’t even get out the car. When I walked in the house I remember the openness of it but was immediately struck by the view of the little lake in the back. I immediately told Michael he had to come see it.
We tried to negotiate the purchase and couldn’t come to terms with the owner. So in the next few months we decided on a lot around the corner. Michael was sure he could take what we saw in that house and make it better. And he certainly did – 5000 feet of beach house, enough to sleep 22, pool, decks and balconies, wide open den and kitchen with lots of room for laughter and conversation.
From the time we broke ground we loved all that was involved in making this our family place. Friends would drive down here with us every few weeks to meet with the contractor and see the progress. They lovingly nicknamed it the BABH (the Big Ass Beach House – haha) and helped us to think through and plan on colors and furnishings. And then they made the trip with us to move in and assemble all the furniture and accessories.
From the first week we moved in, the house was filled with voices and laughter, kids running in and out and large meals prepared in the kitchen. Nineteen of us were here that first week. And in the years since, I couldn’t count how many people have come through these doors. There have been vacations, spring breaks, bridal and baby showers, bachelorette parties, golf cart parades, honeymoons, family reunions and New Year’s Eve celebrations. During Katrina we moved here for a month, complete with friends and family from both sides, enrolled the kids in school here and saw our family members get jobs here. We set up our office in our master bedroom and I still remember falling asleep at night to the glow of the computer screen as my little sister would be typing in payroll and accounts payable.
Now I return to the house without Michael, and yet he is here in everything I see. There are not as many family pictures here as at home, but so many memories. The giant blue marlin on the wall that he caught off the coast of Puerto Rico and the bill from the marlin he caught in Hawaii. (The tacky blue marlin pillows on the sofa that he bought and I always wanted to get rid of.) The copper fish that line the walls we found at a road side artist shack on a trip to the Keys. The glass sailboat and rainbow fish, both special treasures brought back from trips to Murano glass factories.
And so many other little things. Several of his shirts hang in the closet. His swimsuit lays on the shelf. His shoes are on the floor and his golf clubs stand in the corner. He would have loved the colors of the water today and the wonderful breeze on the beach road. And the lunch at one of our favorite beach restaurants would have been his first stop. The golf cart is there ready for him to check out the neighborhood and shuttle people to the beach.
And already there are changes since we were here about a year ago. A few businesses have closed. A few new ones are opening. A new house is being built around the corner and he would love to go check it out. His prized blueprint of the Titanic is framed and hanging on the wall just where he wanted it, though he never got to see it there.
I’m so thankful for friends who walk beside me in these days to revisit this place with both laughter and tears. While it’s hard to return, I cannot imagine not coming back. This place is such a part of our family and our memories. And every time we came here we talked about how thankful we were that God had provided this place for us. The years to come will not be the same. But I pray that God will continue to make this a place of rest and refreshment for our family and our extended family. As Michael always said, “My dear looooooves her beach house!”