Excerpt:  Pawleys Island Paradise:

A Companion

Growing up, it was a family priority to go on vacation every year. My dad was a corporate businessman and my mom was a first grade teacher, so our vacations always occurred in the summer. I learned early on from my parents that the only decent summer vacation was to THE BEACH! My parents loved the beach, and therefore, I love the beach. I don’t remember going on a family vacation that didn’t involve the beach. I immediately associated the sound of the waves, the taste of the salt, the feel of the sand in my bare toes, as some of the most wonderful and freeing feelings in the world.

Because I grew up in central Illinois, it took a LONG TIME to get to the beach. During my childhood, we tried a lot of beaches. One time we took a 4-day car trip out west to San Francisco where we visited the beautifully chilly and rocky Pacific Ocean. One year we drove south and booked a condo for a week at beautiful New Smyrna Beach, Florida. We were having such a great time that we ended up extending our trip spontaneously and staying an extra week.

But once we discovered Pawleys Island, South Carolina, we were hooked and ended up going back there time and time again. I grew up in a family that, until late in my high school years, we were isolated (geographically) from other family members. In other words, I didn’t have grandparents, aunts, uncles or cousins in the same town as me. In order to see family, we had to travel. And we did. We traveled to Ohio, Tennessee, California and Massachusetts to visit family members and stay in their houses. But the best solution was for all family members to travel to the beach and get a house to stay in together, and spend a week or two or three, vacationing.

I don’t remember how, but we somehow discovered The Old Gray Barn in Pawleys Island. Cousins from all over the country went there and we spent the vacation re-connecting while playing in the sand, swimming in the ocean, nursing our sunburns, and playing endlessly. And every year, we went back.

The Old Gray Barn met our needs. It was big, slept a ton of people, and sat right on the beach. No outside entertainment was needed during the day. All the kids would just wake up, eat breakfast and head out the back door and entertain themselves for hours at a time with the sand and surf.

It has not escaped me how “unluxurious” these vacations were, especially compared to the beach vacations we take now. Like my parents did, my husband and I take our own family on a beach vacation every year. But unlike my parents, we usually book a 2-bedroom condo with air conditioning, two baths, a fully stocked kitchen and a flat screen TV! Not only is it beachfront, but there’s also a pool at our disposal, as well as usually an exercise room and hot tubs. We don’t cook big family meals every night like we did in the old days. We stock cereal and sandwich stuff to make our own breakfasts and lunches, and then we hit the town to find the ultimate seafood restaurants for dinner. I admire my mom and my aunts who worked so hard during these vacations of my childhood, to make sure that everyone was having a good time, while not spending a mint.

Oh, and did I mention that while driving across the country from the Midwest to the beach, my family would camp at campgrounds at night? My parents would pack our station wagon with a tent, sleeping bags, cooking utensils, etc., for nights spent camping. Yowza. My family now? We check into the closest Hampton Inn!

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