A Nomad’s Notes: Half a decade later, hello Hilton Head

I’m sitting on the corner of a road. It’s 11 p.m., so I doubt many people are going to be going by, but I still feel a bit vulnerable. I’m waiting for a car coming the opposite way. About two minutes later, here it comes, around a corner, driving up. The window’s rolled down, and I’m smiling so big and happy as I lay my eyes on my dad for the first time since Christmas.

I’m pretty sure I said, “It’s you, it’s you!” or some variant of that. I just wanted to give him a hug right there. I had just gained entry to Shipyard Plantation on Hilton Head Island. I’ve always been a Palmetto Dunes girl myself, but two men who own the company my stepmom works for own the home, and let employees use the house for a week. And when all the tourists are gone and the sun isn’t trying to kill you as much, mid-October is a perfect time to go on vacation to the beach — even when your current town of residence is right right by a beach.

So my dad told me to follow him, which I didn’t think I’d need to do because my GPS was showing me where to go (or so I thought at the time), but it made my heart feel sort of like a gooey cookie knowing he was doing such a dad thing by making sure I arrived at my destination safely.

As soon as I parked my car beside his, I hugged him hard, took in his “dad smell” and let him help me inside. Everyone else in the house was asleep, and I was surprised at my dad being awake at 11 p.m. (I’ve been told not to call him past 9:30 p.m.), but, hey, when you’re on vacation, you let yourself sleep in some —which for my relatives means getting up at the incredibly late hour of 8:30 a.m.

Dad settled me in to my temporary pullout couch bed and wished me good night. I’d only had pizza earlier. Finding vegetables in the fridge, chips on the counter and cereal at my disposal, I decided to go for the one carton of ice cream in the freezer (please don’t tell my dad), settled in and actually slept quite well, which is pretty amazing considering I think I’ve only had two good sleeps since 2014.

The next day, I got to freak out at seeing my stepmom for the first time since Christmas and my aunt and uncle, too. Dad also decided to take me by car to the parking area I’d need to go to get to the beach. Turned out it was the wrong parking lot, so he pulled the car up to this nifty clubhouse and let me get out to go on the boardwalk to see the Atlantic Ocean — which excited me, even though I had seen it less than 48 hours before. A beach is a beach, man. It’s always awesome.

And I swear, sometimes I feel God likes to sneak in little nuggets of good stuff for each person, because within about 30 seconds of walking toward the pier I saw one of those signs that reads “Paris this way by xxxxx miles, Fiji that way by xxxx miles” — only this one said “Egypt, 6,232 miles” — marking the distance to my favorite foreign country to visit. I gasped and took probably five photos of the sign from the exact same angle.

Then as I walked up the boardwalk, what should I see coming toward me but a schnauzer! My last (and only) two pups, Max and then Kawika (pronounced Kuh-vee-kuh; David in Hawaiian), were miniature schnauzers. But a schnauzer is a schnauzer, and this sweet girl was no different. I can’t remember her name for anything, but I know it was a she, and I know I did my typical spiel where I stop the person with the schnauzer to tell them about my boys, which is sort of a trick so they’ll stop and let me pet their doggies. After a few moments, I let this sweet girl go (but ended up seeing her a few minutes later as I came back down the dock), and made my way to take in a beach I hadn’t set foot on since five years ago in June.

Every beach has a different vibe. And vibes aren’t things you can describe adequately with words. Each place has a different energy. A West Coast beach feels different from an East Coast beach. Even this beach felt different from the beaches back home in Brunswick County.

I came back to the car and told my dad about these serendipitous events, and headed back to the house so I could really go get out on the water.

And let me tell you, even though it was only a two-day trip, there was something almost spiritual about it, like my soul needed a rest and sitting on a beach reading a fictional book about Egypt was what I needed.

Or I could’ve just been mentally exhausted.

Either way, after spending a few hours at the beach that day, I decided to drive and go find the pool, which wasn’t too far from the house where we were staying. I put the address in my GPS ... and went everywhere but the road I needed.

It was like maze I could not figure out. Finally, I decided to take the road I couldn’t take earlier because it was half blocked by guys working on trees (with the business name of Tree Wise Men — I’m 100 percent serious), and lo and behold, that was the road I needed to make my way to the pool.

I’m not proud of the things I yelled at Siri during that drive.

Later that night, the family and I went to this somewhat fancy-schmancy Italian restaurant and showed up early. Someone (not me) misheard the dinner reservation as 7:35 p.m. instead of 7:45 p.m., so we stood there blocking the waiters’ way because there was nowhere else to stand until we walked to our table and ordered meals we could barely pronounce because of how authentically Italian it was (although I’m pretty sure our waiter’s name was Greg, so only just).

When I settled into bed that night after all the fuddy duddies went to bed early, I learned, as I hadn’t the night before, about the painful bars that can press into your back when you’re lying on a pullout couch bed. I spent more time than was ideal scooting up and down the bed like a bear with an itch on its back to find the sweet spot.

The next day was a repeat of the first except for a really cool breakfast at a place called Harold’s, with beach time and pool-time reading to follow near what I assume is a manmade lake. Now seeing alligators here isn’t out of the ordinary, but they’re everywhere in Hilton Head, including this little lake. I couldn’t stop laughing at the gator on the other side of the lake with its mouth open, just lurking there. Clearly it was bathing in the sunlight, but their expressions make it look like they’re so incensed and speechless by what somebody has just said.

What made me laugh even harder was an anhinga. Go look it up. I’d never heard of one before this trip, and I’m sure I would’ve remembered seeing one before, because it looks like a snake coming out of the water as it temporarily lift its head up catch a breath of air while also sporting a look of utter anger and disbelief (seems a common thread among these animals) before going back down to catch fish underneath.

I even saw one catch a fish halfway across the pond, but I swear to you its neck was so thin I could see the fish jumping about as it went down the throat. You don’t come back from that.

That night we had some déjà vu with another Italian meal. The four adults initially had a reservation at a place called Charlie’s, but they took into account how much I hate all seafood (I know, I know). They switched it up to a place I couldn’t tell you the name of, but it was better than the first meal. And I learned that I don’t drink enough because the minute I drank my creme brûlée martini (probably too quickly, in my defense), I about dozed off before we’d had our dinner.

We then went to Shelter Cove, a place we used to frequent when we were younglings who liked the dolphin tours offered on the Intracoastal Waterway. This time ,we were too late for the tour, so we ogled the yachts in the harbor, ate some gelato and listened to a boy and girl argue so loudly that I thought I would have to call the cops. Perfect ending to my trip.

The night before having to drive four hours home, I didn’t sleep well, because of course, but I managed to feel wide awake and alert in the morning and said goodbyes to my relatives without feeling the deep angst of leaving them ‘cause I’ll see them again at Christmas.

In the past two weeks since then, when I’ve been stressed or felt more down than usual, I look back on those days sitting on the beach reading a fantasy book  or sitting with my dad and uncle outside listening to Burning Spear, or eating so much Italian food, I feel at peace and filled with happiness, like the rays that beat down on me could burst out of my skin.

The events that make memories may only happen once, but thank God you get the chance to remember them again and again.

Lindsay Kriz is a staff writer for the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or email lkriz@brunswickbeacon.com.