From Switchyard II

(See Nag's Head in the 2000 gallery.)

Looking back, I'm amazed at how much my parents accomplished with so little: three-kid family living in a three-bedroom house in a nice subdivision; weekend excursions all spring and summer; and one big vacation each year, to the beach.

We went to Virginia Beach or to North Carolina, usually with my dad's parents and sometimes with my aunt and uncle.

I only remember snatches, bits and pieces of this trip:

My little sister crying because the sand was too hot for her feet. She had been playing in the wet sand by the water and didn't know that the dry sand got very hot by lunch time. My mom had to run and rescue her.

After that we learned how to walk on a beach towel so the hot sand wouldn't burn our feet if we forgot our shoes. You hold one end and take baby steps on the other end dragging on the ground.

My dad took me fishing for the first time. I had a little plastic fishing rod. I caught an eel, a crab, and one little fish. I never have liked fishing.

My grandpa was with us. He got up really early every morning and cooked oatmeal using sea water. It wasn't too bad if you put enough sugar on it. The ocean wasn't polluted then and my grandpa was a doctor and would have known if it was OK, wouldn't he? He told us it was good for us.

I don't know who took the photo this piece is based on (my mom usually took the pictures) but it's wonderful - my mom and two sisters in a white wasteland with the cottages in the distance.

I always knew we were poor but didn't realize how very poor until I went through my parents papers after they died. My mom kept every bill, check, tax return, and piece of correspondence she had ever received - from day one. I honestly don't know how they managed raising us three kids. But somehow we always got to go to the beach.