Emerald Isle has always been that one place for us to be a family. That one week out of the year to not worry about the outside world but reconnect with each other.
It has been tradition for the Phillips family to make the long drive from Ohio to Emerald Isle every summer for the past 30 years. It started with just our mom and dad and grew in numbers every year. I went from riding in my dad’s eight-passenger van, sleeping in the back through the night with my brother and sister, to driving in the middle of the four caravanning cars. It never fails, as we cross the bridge to get onto the island, that the windows go down so we can smell the ocean and feel the salty breeze. We feel just like kids again as we pass all the familiar places on our way to get the keys to our vacation house. It never grows old – year after year the excitement is still there, only now we share the excitement and tradition with our little ones.
Although we have lost a handful of family members throughout the years we have gained twice as many including new spouses and new babies. Family friends and even the family dogs have made the trip with us a couple times. The best quote we have ever heard about Emerald Isle is that “It is the closest place to heaven.” We could not agree more. When our mom passed away four years ago we thought the beach would never be the same since it was her favorite place in the world. But it was just the opposite. When we are at Emerald Isle you can feel her watching over all of us as we play on the beach. We can picture our grandpa sitting up at the house watching us from the shaded deck and grandma tanning herself to a nice golden brown by the ocean. We truly have the whole family together.
Every year we love to watch the newest member of our family’s reaction as they explore the beach for the first time. We have seen it all, from one not wanting to touch the sand without shoes on to the most recent one running straight to the ocean without a fear in the world. Even though our family changes over the years, Emerald Isle still feels the same, like time standing still. Nothing has changed since we each took our own first step in the sand.
When we came together to write about our Emerald Isle traditions a lot of memories came to mind. We remembered Squatters, the “all you can eat” seafood buffet that just closed a couple years ago (I wish I would have bought a t-shirt from there). We remembered shelling at the point and then atShackelfordIsland. We remembered building sand castles, playing putt-putt, riding waves (or should I say getting knocked over by the waves), taking walks along the ocean (and getting carried back because I got pinched by a crab), watching a sea turtle lay her eggs, fishing at the pier early in the morning, visiting the fort and the aquarium, jet-skiing, and tanning. We love to reminisce about all the different houses and even the condos that we have rented over the years. It is weird how everyone seems to remember the house with the spiral staircase. But most of all we remember our family, old and young, who have traveled with us over the years, to the closest place to heaven….Emerald Isle. That’s what tradition is about….family.