My wife Priscilla and I began coming to Emerald Isle when our children were just approaching their teens. We have three sons. My wife’s sister and her husband, Nancy and John, have two sons. Their family always joined ours for summer vacation. The five boys were close in age and we wanted to establish a tradition of getting them together regularly so they would grow up knowing each other and being friends. The two families settled on the beach as the best format to engage and entertain five growing boys; and we settled on Emerald Isle (EI) because, to us, it presented the best family environment. We came year after year as our sons grew to adulthood; got married one by one; and had families of their own. But the EI tradition stuck, and it stuck not because we wanted it to continue, but because our sons and their families now wanted the same marvelous, yearly, vacation experiences they grew up knowing. They wanted their children to bond with their cousins as they had with theirs.
I worked in the science field during this period and Priscilla and our family lived several places. John was a Marine Colonel so Nancy, John, and their family moved frequently as well. Nevertheless, we always returned to EI from wherever we were for the family week at the beach. When Pris and I retired to Florida about the same time as Priscilla’s family in 2005, we tried to shift the summer week to Florida beaches for convenience, but it was not the same for us or the children. So as the Jimmy Buffett song “Back to the Island” goes, we all felt we “had to go back to the island”, Emerald Isle. Now each summer our families flock from California, Maryland, Georgia, New York, and Florida to Emerald Isle like migratory birds – but with a lot more baggage! Thirteen adults, eight children (presently all under seven), with all the car seats, beach gear, suntan lotion, beach toys, etc. that it takes to mobilize growing families. Last summer we rented about as large a house as is available at EI (Dune View) so we could all stay together. It was wonderful and we are coming back next year.
For our families the summer is not complete until we gather for our week at Emerald Isle. Having coffee on the deck at sunrise; swimming in the ocean; having shrimp from Captain Phillips; eating at the Crab Shack; playing putt-putt golf; visiting Beaufort for lunch at the Spouter Inn; touring the North Carolina aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores; and hunting for shells and shark’s teeth on the beach during morning walks. And then there are all the traditions that are part of the perfect beach week that you have to see to fully understand, such as:
- Surf fishing, not for the fish but for the pleasure
- Learning to board surf…. and hearing from Dad how he used to hang ten
- Taking long walks with your children where they learn about shells and crabs, and you learn about them
- Swimming with your best friends – your cousins
- Learning to fly a kite
- Catching crabs and sand fleas
- Getting the word from Mom
- Or the latest news from New York City
- Feeling the beach
We always document our beach time with video and photographs, and viewing them is like a chronicle of the advancement of each family member. We take group and family photos at the beach for Christmas cards that we share with our friends to let them track how the families are growing.
So next year we will come back to the island to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary. We can think of nothing more appropriate than continuing the tradition to celebrate our half century of marriage with our children, grandchildren, and extended family at a place where we have all grown together, Emerald Isle.