“Perhaps this is the most important thing for me to take back from beach-living:
simply the memory that each cycle of the tide is valid;
each cycle of the wave is valid; each cycle of a relationship is valid.”
― Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea
When I was about Olivia’s age (around 11), my parents went in search of a home in the Outer Banks. They purchased a cozy little cottage and we spent our first night there in sleeping bags on the floor while a northeaster raged around us and sent the house bobbing and weaving in the wind. The house decorating began with antique items inherited from a great aunt – the goods lovingly trucked across Kentucky and Virginia to make their way to the beach.
Eventually mom and dad tacked up a handmade sign out front with the words “Sea Country” stenciled on it. With all the country-themed furnishings, it made total sense. An old wooden rake hung on the wall, a tractor seat was spray painted and held fruits and snacks, and perhaps the strangest but most talked about, a large antique meat grinder stood watch at the end of the bright yellow kitchen counter. My favorite is the large lone star quilt made by a family member that they “framed” and hung in the den. Mom painted little odds and ends for the house – a sandpiper for one room, a hand-painted milkcan-turned-table. And lest you think the current mason jar trend is new, mom furnished the house with mason jars to drink out of over 30 years ago. (Not as successful, the bright red tin mugs. They get HOT when you fill them with coffee!)
The little beach house was never a typical beach house – but rather a warm, cozy spot to relax and get away.
And I do mean get away. The house didn’t have a TV until one summer a few years after they’d started renting the house in the summer — a rental family apparently went out and purchased a TV (and even had cable installed). Mom and dad caved and let the TV stay. At the end of another summer rental season they discovered that someone had phone service turned on and a telephone sat proudly on a side table. Again, they caved, but it was around that time that they stopped renting it through an agency.
My parents invited my friends and we’d spend entire weekends giggling in the bunk beds in “my” room while my parents – wise ones – got to relax. One winter we stayed there nearly every weekend while they oversaw the construction of a larger, more modern home a few miles down the beach road. That fancier, modern home served as a meeting spot for a large family reunion, and a few other fun weekends, but it wasn’t long before they put it on the market and we went back to weekends in the cottage. Mom said the cottage was her favorite; no doubt because she’d given it so much time and love.
My parents don’t get down to the house much anymore. They’re somewhat housebound and don’t travel like they used to. My sisters and I are thankful that they’ve kept the house – so far – and we’re hopeful that it stays in the family. We have each continued our own family traditions – one sister’s husband loves fishing for hours a day, another sister loves spending time at the Yellow House Gallery and taking advantage of the off-season 10 cent shrimp happy hours!
Steve, Olivia and I are continuing the tradition of shopping at the Ben Franklin store nearby and making day trips to the lighthouses. And there’s nothing like the sleep you get in the Outer Banks. Last year we went on an adventure to see the wild ponies in Carova – which I highly recommend. We don’t get to the house as much as I’d like, but I love that when we do, time slows a little bit. We spend more time talking, laughing, reading and swinging on the front porch. And we come home with clothes that smell uniquely like the cottage – a combination of antique wood and salt that takes me back to that house every time I catch a whiff of it.
I wanted to preserve Sea Country and the memories we’ve made there. After the recent snow I wanted to capture a few shots of snow on the Outer Banks, too. I shot these photos on film – the warmth and imperfection of film was perfect to record this space and time in our lives.
Technical notes: These are shot on a Contax 645 with a 2.0 Zeiss lens and Kodak 800 Portra film.
Yes, that’s a little patch of snow sitting next to the steps in the left photo.
Mom went through a red phase. Thus, the red carpet throughout the house.
She purchased red towels, too, and we discovered the hard way that the red dye never, ever completely washes out of red towels.
Dad collected and fixed watches and clocks – you’ll see clocks pop up throughout the house.
Mom painted the sandpiper to the right and glued the shells on the mirror, too.
The “art” framed in the photo to the right says “The Pot Hole” – which is what I called my “Port Hole” art drawn as a child.
Only a mother would frame such art and hang it in the bathroom of a beach house!
(The cow’s head towel holder is one of my favorite things in the entire house.)
All good beach houses must have a selection of well-worn beach reading, including selections by Pat Conroy and Anne Rivers Siddons.
One of the things I love about the house is the beautiful light that warms all of the rooms – even with the dark paneling.
Love the wood on this Jenny Lind bed.
Mom even turned a collectable tin cracker box into a lamp.
Mom framed a reprint of the Virginian-Pilot from the day that the Wright Brothers flew in Kitty Hawk.
We stopped at the Knotts Island Ferry stop in Currituck for a few more photos.
Snow on the shoreline of the Currituck Sound.
Ice next to the ferry.