The family Zoom meetings leading up to the beach week painted an ominous picture of a 2020 Howell/Melendy Beach Week.
We were all nervous. We were all promising to be cautious. I was being severely over-parented by my two sons, who are evidently terrified that I am going to catch COVID-19. We were trying to be confident because we “know” our beach of many, many years. It isn’t like the crowded beaches of news footage.
Still, we knew it would be a different kind of week.
It has. And it hasn’t.
The truth is that while we are doing things a little differently as far as groceries and shopping, the week has slipped into blissful familiarity. The children, six of them this year, are playing everything from hide-and-seek to video games to football on the beach. The adults are catching up, reminiscing and playing cards. We are all just so happy to be together and to be here, at our familiar, comfortable, memory-filled Holden Beach!
Holden Beach is my sanctuary. The memories I have of this beach are all tied to family, a multi-generational, blood-and-friendship family that so far spans 60 years of my 66 years of life. I can’t begin to even process the memories of the sands and sea that Holden and I have shared.
I have stood on the beach as a broken 6-year-old, just months away from the death of my beloved father.
I have watched with glee as my first nephews learned to love me, began to see me as the “fun” aunt who wanted nothing more than to play with them.
I have bounced in the surf as a new mother, nervous as a kitten as my husband held our sons in the surf.
I have felt the growth of a cherished friendship as we share our lives, our children, and, now, our grandchildren with each other.
I have watched with happiness as my married sons brought their brides to the beach and the girls, too, fell in love with our Beach Week.
I have felt my heart burst with unrestrained joy as cousins, my grandsons who are separated most weeks of the year by 2,300 miles, hug and play and love each other.
I have had tough years – like this one – when Holden Beach has allowed me to put the world “on hold” for a little while. Some years, Holden has filled me with the glories of nature and God’s infinite power, giving me a way to strengthen my faith and find healing for what was hurting.
It is my sanctuary. It’s good to be here with my beach family.
Sherri Gardner Howell has been writing about family life for newspapers and magazines since 1987. She lives in West Knoxville, is married to Neville Howell and has two sons and three grandsons.