The sound of waves coming ashore, and the feel and smell of the morning breeze bringing the salt air off of the ocean, is always more than enough. But even that is simple icing on the cake compared to the breathtaking site of the sun breaking over the Atlantic horizon on the Carolina coast. There is a real beauty that comes from living the island life. You can’t really put your finger on it, but you know it’s there.
Like most small towns across America, life moves slowly. There is a strict limit to people knowing your business, not to say folks around little towns don’t have secrets. However, it’s pretty simple. You can miss a step, fall off your front porch on your way to work at 7:00 in the morning, and by 7:05, when you stop to grab a cup of coffee, the girl behind the counter will ask if you got hurt. Life on an island town isn’t that different. As for this thin slice of paradise, Surf City, is the smallest town yet, the most populated five and a half square miles of salt and sand, and sits in the center of the 26-mile long North Carolina barrier island of Topsail (that’s pronounced TOPS’L).
Now unlike the average small town, there is a price to be paid; an extra bit of dues that is unique to living in an island tourist town. In an island town, you have to learn to live in a large-scale, dysfunctional family for 101 days of the year and ride the wave of a thirteen-week love-hate relationship with several thousand “out of town relatives,” so to speak. Some we simply call tourist, guest or visitors, which are our “cool” relatives like your mom’s youngest brother, who, when you got your license, let you drive his ’77 Candy Apple Red T-top Corvette Stingray to the car wash every Sunday after church, or your Aunt Bridget who somehow, always got you in the local club with the big name bands and y’all always got backstage.
Then there are the “tourons,” (a compound word made up by combining tourist with moron). This refers to “those” people. You know, the kind of folks that just won’t act right! Like your Uncle Matt, who always has to share the story of when you were fourteen-years-old and completely lost your bathing suit going down one of the slides at that water park up in Greensboro? Then there’s his shit-head son, your cousin Ricky, who, when he’s at your house, wrecks your room, steals, or breaks half your stuff and hits on every girl you go to school with. Nonetheless, it don’t matter if they are cool, or huge pains in the ass, it’s okay and we love them all the same. Our summers don’t really belong to us, they belong to our extended migratory family because our wellbeing is dependent on their visits and it is mostly because of them that our little town survives and thrives.
But for now, the numbers are in, the lines are gone, and the roads and beaches are clear. It’s the first Tuesday in September and the first day back to work or school after the last long weekend of summer. Its day 1 of 264, until the last Friday in May when the family rolls back into town. It’s time to regroup, reflect, relax and hopefully be able to make it through the off-season.
Good lord y’all, the circus has left town and it’s time to sound the all clear!