Charley and I just returned from an ill-timed vacation to South Carolina with our friends, Mary and Jim. We had been busy at home and had not turned on the TV for a while. Oblivious to local and national events, last Tuesday we flew to Charleston, drove south to Hilton Head and planted ourselves smack dab into the middle of two storms of epic proportions. To the east of Hilton Head Island, Hurricane Joaquin was reeking havoc over the Bahamas and getting ready to head our way. To the west, a weather event, such as had not been seen in 1000 years (according to the Weather Channel) was preparing to flood the low country. And we were sandwiched somewhere in the middle.
Assurances were given to friends and family, calling and emailing from Rhode Island, that we were fine. It appeared they were glued to the Weather Channel avidly watching to catch a glimpse of us being plucked, amidst swirling currents, from the roof of our Disney condominium by a Chinook helicopter. But it remained peaceful and quiet on the marshes outside our porch in Shelter Cove. Mary and I shopped and read and chatted while Charley and Jim actually fit in 4 rounds of golf. Joaquin eventually headed out to sea, away from the east coast and the massive flooding stayed to the north of us in the Carolina lowlands.
One afternoon, Charley and I traveled to the nearby town of Bluffton. Mary and Jim went off in search of a movie. We roamed around a bit and stopped at The Cottage, a little bakery/cafe we remembered fondly from a previous visit. Arriving too late for lunch, (no big deal. grilled cheese was not on their menu) we enjoyed tea and pastries outside and bought a tea-pot wrapped in a home-made cozy. It felt very English.
The four of us had planned an excursion to Savannah, Georgia. Mary and Jim had never been so, in spite of the rain, we decided to visit and take a trolley tour of the Historic Neighborhood and Houses built around the 22 remaining park squares.We stopped at the home of Juliette Gordon Low. In 1912, she gathered with a small group of young women and shared what she had learned from the Girl Guides back in England. This was the beginning of the Girl Scout Movement which would promote sports, camping, astrology, foreign languages and most importantly, a belief that girls could do anything. Today there are over 3 million Girl Scouts in 92 countries and 59 million alumnae, including Mary and me. I remember one of my first badges was for cooking. I made a grilled cheese sandwich and chocolate pudding from a mix. Times were obviously simpler then. I wish I’d saved my badges. They were cool! My mother never got around to sewing them on the green sash. I guess I could have earned a sewing badge if I’d done it myself, but I carried them around in a cigar box.
One of the trolley stops was the Cathedral of Saint John The Baptist. Inside, I had a quiet conversation with a volunteer selling religious books and souvenirs. It was her 70th birthday. The first one without her husband. She was distraught because she’d been drenched on her way to the church. She explained that a driver had sped close to the curb through a puddle, swamping her as she walked along the sidewalk. We talked about her husband who had died a few months before. I bought a gold ornament depicting one of the stained glass windows in the church and told her about our collection and the yearly tradition of unwrapping them and hanging them on the Travel Tree at Christmas. I introduced her to Charley and promised we’d remember her and her husband every year when we took out our Savannah Ornament. I lit a candle, made a request and went outside. It miraculously had stopped raining. The sun was shining. Across the street was a tiny cafe and feeling the urge for a grilled cheese, my favorite meal, we headed inside. They only served waffles with different toppings, none of which was American cheese, so I chose strawberries and cream.
We hopped back on a trolley and learned more about the history of the homes, the people and the neighborhoods. The tour guide sang a lovely chorus of Moon River when we passed the composer, Johnny Mercer’s House and she pointed out where the Forrest Gump “Life is Like a Box of Chocolates” Bench had been until it was moved to the Telfair Museum. She talked about Eli Whitney who had visited Mrs. Greene’s Georgia plantation and went on to invent the cotton gin. Whitney once said that he had been inspired to create a better method of seeding cotton when he observed a cat attempting to pull a chicken through a fence and ending up with only feathers. (ZuZu, the little tabby from A Berkshire Tale would really not be happy with this story since some of her best friends are hens.) It was our guide’s contention, however that it was Mrs. Whitney’s brainchild based on a letter written home to his wife asking her advice on how to fix a problem with the cotton gin he was so famous for creating. (Some have even credited it to Mrs. Greene.)The guide went on to explain that because of laws prohibiting women from holding patents, Eli’s name was placed on the document. I wondered if Mrs. Greene or Mrs.Whitney had ever been girl scouts.
A few years back, we had taken this tour around Savannah’s Historic District. I really enjoyed winding in and out of the squares with their lovely parks and fountains and was happy to share it once again with friends.
Mary and Jim flew home at the end of the week, but Charley and I spent a couple of nights in Charleston. Had we arrived a day earlier, the woman at our hotel said we would have been paddling our way into the town center, but most of the streets had dried out and it was sunny when we got there. We walked the cobblestone sidewalks and ate dinner at Magnolias. They didn’t have grilled cheese on the menu so I ordered the flounder.
Afterwards, we strolled along the pier as the sun was setting. I learned something new from three young people who asked if I would take their picture. They explained if I held down the little button on their camera, a series of pictures could be taken in short succession. While they proceeded to jump up and down and contort their bodies into a myriad of poses, I shot the pictures. The next day I convinced Charley to jump up and down while I tried this with my iPad. I ended up with hundreds of leaping Charleys in my photo library. I could have kept doing this forever, but after a few minutes, Charley declared “enough with the jumping” and went off to find a cold drink. I can’t wait to try it with the cats. I’m easily entertained.
We stopped into a large candy store. At the counter were boxes of candied crickets which reminded me of my little tabby, ZuZu. She loves to eat bugs. I thought of picking her up a package, but resisted the impulse, knowing that Roxie (aka The Other Cat) would be disgusted at my continued enabling of this barbaric practice. (See post: “My Little Sister Eats Bugs”) We ordered two gelatos. I usually get maple walnut or butter pecan but after seeing the candied insects, I decided to avoid anything with a crunch and opted for plain old chocolate. Charley went for plain old orange.
The next day was spent at Middleton Place, one of the Charleston Plantations situated on the Ashley River. We took a carriage ride around the property and toured the Middleton Place House, originally a gentleman’s guest wing alongside the family home which burned down during the Civil War. The docent told of the four generations of Middletons who had lived on the property from 1741 until 1865 when Sherman marched to the sea and northern troops destroyed so many of the beautiful, old southern properties. This guest wing survived and was restored by the family following the War. It’s now a National Historic Landmark. Charley and I spent the entire afternoon roaming in and out of the vast “garden rooms” meticulously laid out, landscaped and added to by each successive generation of Middletons.
On Thursday, we flew home to RI as the flood waters that had devastated the lowlands began to move toward the coastal towns. Each night this week on the news, we listen to reports of how the people of South Carolina are working together to deal with this latest catastrophe. It has been a tough year for them, but they are resilient and South Carolina is a truly beautiful state.
On our stop-over at the airport in Baltimore, we had lunch in The Silver Diner. I asked for a plain grilled cheese sandwich but the waitress told me I had to order from the grown-up menu. That sandwich included two types of cheese, french fries, coleslaw, cranberry orange ginger sauce and sourdough bread. I just wanted plain old pale yellow American cheese, flattened out between two pieces of skinny, pale white bread, cooked to a golden brown on a greasy grill. It was on the kid’s menu but having passed the age of 12 long ago, it was not to be. So, I had a vanilla shake and dreamed of the cheese sandwiches of my youth. I even composed a cheese song. Johnny Mercer eat your heart out! But you’ll have to wait for the next post because now I have to figure out how to get the pictures from my iPad to my Mac Air and then into my media file so I can insert them into this post. Air Drop has decided to go on strike for some unknown reason. Life was so much easier when I could order from the kid’s menu..