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Stumbling upon Shangri La

We returned from Mexico and nursed dad back to health. It was a long haul but he fully recovered.  I remember a list of prohibited foods he was not allowed to consume, I am not sure if chocolate was on that list, but I distinctly remember making chocolate chip cookies sans the chips which I ate out of the dough to spare dad any ill effects. I am sure this simple act of kindness on my part was the turning point in his recovery. By summer he we were ready to hit the road again.

There are definite benefits to having parents that work in the education system. It may not be the most financially lucrative field but that drawback is far outweighed  by the delight as a child to having ones parents available to play when you are. I was quite old when I realized most families did not get to spend months on end traveling like vagabonds but are instead allotted a week or two in the year to stag a trip to Disney.  We spent the early 60’s exploring the east coast from the cold wind-swept northern beaches of Nantucket and Provincetown down to the moss draped plantations of South Carolina. Not having obsessive/compulsive parents who dutifully logged  the miles, route taken and stops taken in the trusty station wagon chronicling each local with photographs I am once again left with just scattered memories of Boston, NYC, the Great Smokey Mountains and the magical sand dollar beach on the shore of South Carolina.

Some of my favorite travel memories are of those stumbled upon quite by accident; often en route to a final destination with no real agenda or schedule in mind.  That was the case with the Sand Dollar beach. We mostly camped in those days and were looking for a place we could pitch a tent. I believe it was mom that suggested we check out this campground. Not being campers of the trailer-variety nor keen on the KOA scene it was often hard to find our version of Shangri La but this came close. Miles of white sandy beach lay beyond the tree-shaded camp area. Gently rolling waves and shallow warm water going out for what felt like miles where we would spend the day diving for sand dollars, paradise. It was kid heaven and probably pretty close to perfect for parents as we were entertained for hours and worn out by all the activity. I also remember the fogger truck that ambling through the campsite as dusk descended spewing clouds of DDT to keep misquotes at bay. While a common practice in the 50’s and 60’s my only memory of playing in the DDT fog is at the Sand Dollar Campground.

It was supposed to be a one night stand  but instead we ended up staying a week. I have done many google searches hoping to find pictures other than the grainy home movies we have of this bit of heaven on earth. This vintage postcard The Sand Dollar Camp Ground Isle of Palmsas well as someones home videos posted on YouTube from ’73 are the only remnants I have found of the Sand Dollar Campground on the Isle of Palms outside of Charleston, South Carolina. After a few emails with the gentleman who posted his memories on YouTube I have learned the sad truth I suspected all along, the place no longer exists. Part of me wants to know what type of development could engulfed my Shangri La while the other part is happy to learn there are others out there that have equally happy memories of paradise. Our own Shangir La can not be so easily erased from our hearts.

The Cape

The cape has hung in the spare bedroom closet the past decade along with other items mom passed along to me. Whether for safe keeping or in hopes I will single-handedly resurrect past fashions I am not sure.  I don’t remember the specific day mom gave me these discarded items but I am sure it was with a shrug she told me she was cleaning out her closet and wondered if I wanted these ‘old things’ collected through her travels: a dress purchased in Mexico city in the 60’s, a leather skirt from Spain and this reversible cape purchased in London when labels read Burberry’s not shortened to Burberry as they do today. I wish when she had handed me these pieces I had asked for the story each one held.

I use to play dress up in this cape as a child. With the plaid wool lining kept well hidden from my pray, the black rainy weather side was perfect for dashing about the house as Count Dracula. I love how objects can unleash memories. I close my eyes and picture my mother in her black heals, iconic bob hair cut styled to perfection, the scent of Shalimar swirling in her wake as she heads out for an evening with dad, this very cape draped over her shoulders. This cape hung forgotten until this past fall when I started eyeing capes  in magazines as the latest fashion must have. Keep something long enough it must surely come back into vogue!

It is oddly warm and rainy this winter, not at all like a typical January, this feels more like early March. I decide to venture out in the cape, take it for a spin, see if I still feel like I am playing dress up in my mother’s clothing. Yep, sure enough, I do. Does everyone who slips on something that belonged to their parent feel like an impostor trying to fill impossible shoes or is this just me? Why do we hang on to clothing collected from markets around the globe long after there is any hope we will wear them again? Along with the items left by mom that hang in the spare closet hangs an ill-fitting leather jacket I purchased in Italy in a style long since fashionable with very little hope I will ever wear it again…so why do I hang on to it?