It’s not a secret that I didn’t grow up here on the Outer Banks. Like so many, I grew up vacationing here and jumped at the chance to move permanently in 2011 and it felt like moving home. After loving the Outer Banks for 20+ years, I just couldn’t shake the sand from my soul and I somehow convinced my husband to move down from Pittsburgh. Of course, having Barefoot Bernie’s, a local Steelers bar, near our new home sure made it easy to convince him.
It’s funny how some things can stick with you forever. I’ve probably logged about 100 rides on the Corolla Light trolley as a vacationer. My cousins and I would pile into the trolley, completely covered in sand after a day on the beach. We would race back to get to the swimming pool or to shovel in a dinner that my mom or one of my aunts would have made before curling into a blanket pit on the floor to watch a movie on VHS. I can vividly remember the last day of our vacation as we rode the trolley over to take one more look at the ocean. On the way back to our beach house the trolley driver, knowing that it was a check-out day, started making small talk with my Uncle Bill about how long of a drive we had ahead of us. She was kind and funny and interested in who we were. When the trolley stopped her voice seemed to get about 20 decibels louder and in the deepest southern draw she shouted, “Y’all come back now, ya hear?” I’m certain that her accent was thicker on that last sentence than it had been all week and we all held back laughter until the trolley drove away. That line became a bit of a classic in our family but year after year, we came back… because you bet we heard the woman!
Fast forward about 20 years and that one-liner still takes me back to the smell of the late Summer pine-needles that intoxicate Corolla. However, now I’m the one that gets to tell clients that I can’t wait to see them again next year by inviting them back to our little slice of heaven with my favorite one-liner.
I feel so fortunate that my "happy place" has become such a joyful place for our own kiddos and that they will cherish these memories as much as I do when they are thirty-something. Our last beach trip before the evacuation notice was truly one of our best beach nights that we have ever had and it was apparent by the expressions on their faces.
This week I tuned in to get the latest details on Hurricane Florence when Sam Walker went live on Facebook on Thursday night. He was getting dozens of questions about when the vacationers would be allowed back onto the Outer Banks and you could tell that people were panicking about trying to get back to the their happy place. I’ve got to hand it to Sam, he handled those questions so well! Lightly put, on Thursday night, we just weren’t sure when or if that would even be able to happen. Luckily, by Friday morning we all received great news that our local residents would be allowed back home on Saturday morning and that visitors would be able to join us on the following morning. That sounds like great news in theory but in reality, that means that our locals are coming back after having been displaced from their homes for days and jumping right back into work. This means that they're bringing their kids and pets back home and trying to re-group. They’re unloading a car filled of their most prized possessions and removing hurricane shutters from their homes. They have to restock their empty refrigerators and get to the store so that the can pack school lunches. They probably need to get the outdoor furniture out of their living rooms, too! But before many of them can get to any of their own homes, they are going to hit the ground running to make sure that the beach houses and hotel rooms are cleaned and ready for vacationers to arrive just 24 hours after they were able to come back. They’re coming back to make sure that the pools are cleaned up from storm debris and the grocery stores are re-stocked. They’re back to delivering fresh linens to vacation homes and resuming the trash pick-up services. There’s truly so much work to do to prepare our town for vacationers. If you’re coming to the Outer Banks for vacation this week, keep in mind that the person serving your fish tacos at your favorite restaurant is still trying to wrap their head around the whirlwind of emotions that they felt as an evacuee this week.
If you’re joining us on the Outer Banks this week, I’m asking that you be patient with us. Be patient when your swimming pool has some sand in it or if the grocery store doesn’t have an ingredient that you are looking for. We know that you love these beaches and that you’re anxious to get back to your happy place. We’re glad you’re back because in order to live here, most of us need you.
If you’re like me and just getting re-grouping from the storm and jumping into serving those that are here on vacation, try to focus on how fortunate we are to be able to continue business as usual and be grateful that we’re not losing another week of work. The people we are serving are so excited to spend time in our hometown and they need us just as much as we need them.
I had over 500 messages this week from people extending their prayers, well wishes and love for the Outer Banks. There is no denying that the people who love the Outer Banks just can’t shake the sand from their souls so please keep in mind that while we haven’t been hit by the catastrophic storm that we were expecting this time last week, our beaches are still recovering from several days of rough seas and incredibly high tide.
In short, there is a lot of debris on the beach. If you’re heading out to beach-comb, take a bag or a bucket with you and pitch in with the clean-up efforts. Whether you are here on vacation or you call this sandbar home, we can all work together to bring our “happy place” back together with a little bit of patience and care. Y’all come back now, ya hear?