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Lowcountry Vacation (3 of 3)

Posted by | June 30, 2011 | TRAVEL | 11 Comments

We took a daytrip to Charleston half-way through our week. Braydon and I lived together in Charleston for a year in our early twenties, before we started graduate school. It was an amazing year for us in so many ways and Charleston brings back lots and lots of good memories. Braydon and I have been back to Charleston many times since then (it is one of our favorite places in the world), but we have never brought our kids there. We loved bringing them to Charleston and showing them that heart-and-soul city of the the deep south. We did the top-of-the-list Must-Do Charleston experiences: explored the beautiful streets, browsed in the marketplace, took a horse-drawn carriage ride, ate warm pralines from Market Street Sweets, and walked along Rainbow Row. At the end of our day we put bathing suits on the bambinos and let them go crazy in the waterfront fountains. They had fun. Highlight of this daytrip, though, was our bbq lunch at Sticky Fingers. Braydon and I are long-time fans of Sticky Fingers and we suspected our boys would love it. However, we could have never predicted how much they’d love it. Never, in our entire seven years of parenting these boys, have we ever seen them love a meal so much. Owen ate probably an entire rack of ribs. And Kyle ate – no kidding – a entire half of a chicken – by himself. To say that they loved Sticky Fingers would be a serious understatement. At the end of our lunch they did something absolutely unprecedented: they asked us to buy them Sticky Fingers t-shirts. It was the only thing they asked for the entire trip. I sprung on the opportunity to gift them with that memorabilia!

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In addition to our Charleston pralines and Sticky Fingers barbeque, we ate lots of other Lowcountry delicacies during our week. Steamed blue crab; shrimp and grits (with okra and heirloom tomatoes and thick bits of bacon – from Saltus River Grill, our favorite of the restaurants we discovered in Beaufort – oh so heavenly!); fried shrimp; steamed shrimp; fried oysters; raw oysters; fried green tomatoes; collard greens; hush puppies; boiled peanuts; biscuits and sausage gravy; and of course the watermelon – oh my! oh my! the watermelon! Kyle, Owen, and Meera did not like everything (O loved crab, K & M did not; K loved collards, O & M did not; M loved boiled peanuts, K & O did not), but they are adventurous eaters and they all tried everything. One southern delicacy we discovered that they all loved?! That oh-so-decadent-doughnut: The Krispy Kreme!

And there was the crabbing. The ‘high’ of our whole trip. We crabbed off our dock every day. Ask the boys why they want to go back to South Carolina next year and they’ll tell you it is for the crabbing. They loved it. Truth be told, crabbing was really the hook that got me reeled in to the whole idea of a Lowcountry vacation in the first place. I just knew that if we could do it right (a good private dock, a healthy marsh, the wherewithal to make it happen), then crabbing would be the perfect centerpiece to a great family vacation. Oh my gosh, was I ever right! We had never done it before, and before we left for this trip I did a whole bunch of online research, prepping, and planning in regards to crabbing (How to catch blue crabs? How to cook blue crabs? How to eat blue crabs?). It paid off big time with big beautiful crab-after-crab caught by our team of five. It was a blast!!! And they were so delicious!


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As I mentioned (above, in Post 2 of 3), a vacation like this isn’t entirely easy. There were two main things about this trip that were not simple: #1) we – meaning I — did a lot of our own cooking and all of our own cleaning/laundry/etc., and—   #2) and this is the big one… we – meaning all five of us – had to grapple with our country’s history of slavery and the legacy of those roots in our world today.

As for #1… I just so happen to be someone who really enjoys cooking, especially when it involves something along the lines of stopping at the shrimp dock on the way home from a day at the beach, buying up some fresh shrimp right off the boat, and then – while sipping a gin and tonic made perfectly by my husband with fresh tart key limes that we can’t even buy where we live – cooking up that shrimp into a simply divine shrimp scampi with linguine that my whole family then ooohs and aaahs over the entire time they are eating it all up. Yeah, that is pretty amazingly enjoyable to me. That said, the daily grind of cooking and cleaning and laundry is a bummer to have to do while on vacation. But there is no way around it – for the kind of vacation we had, it just comes with the territory. You can’t have a low-key, laid-back, simple-things vacation and a luxury-all-inclusive vacation too. And so I/we went into it with our eyes wide open and just tried our best to make the best of it (oh, and, note: I officially lost it – like total, full-blown, ugly-cry, raging mad-woman melt-down – exactly three times during our 10 day trip. note: there are no photos of that.).

As for #2… You can’t go to the Lowcountry and not come face-to-face with African-American history. The Lowcountry is African-American history. And nothing about talking about slavery with seven-year-old black boys (as white parents, no less) is easy. You could sugar coat it with all the amazing contributions that came, and are still coming, out of the Lowcountry and the entire African Diaspora: resilience and tenacity and creativity, Gullah Culture, the cuisine, the arts of every form, the music – heck, the history and craf-making of Sweetgrass Baskets alone is enough to fill up a whole ten day trip with celebration. But, we went to the Lowcountry in part as a way to approach African-American history with our children. And we worked hard to do the right thing; We talked about all the good and amazing and wonderful, and we talked about the horrors of the slave trade, the ugly truth of plantation slavery, and the legacy of racism and poverty that results in present-day form. Yeah, that is some pretty tough stuff to grapple with. Not easy. Not a simple thing.

But mixed with the raw harsh truth of the tragic roots of the deep south are the sweet simple truths of the deep south too. The place is just beaming with life. Resiliency and tenacity and sheer creative brilliance just ooze from every pour. In the smoldering heat tiny crabs scurry in and out of their mud holes with a fervor that is just mesmerizing. The thick Spanish moss hangs down and oysters spit from their beds and birds dive for fish. Dolphins swim with their babies, close enough to shore that you can watch them playing in the water. There is beauty and inspiration in every direction. Really, it is simply incredible.

So, from our dock everyday we kept track of the tides kept an eye on the oysters and crabs and watched the sun rise and the sun set. It was, simply, glorious.

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One final note about our Simple Things vacation: a not-so-simple thing for us = trying to get a family photo. Here are the only three we managed to get (none of which are, in our minds, at all frame-worthy):

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family photo on the dock 

We almost never go back to the same place twice, but this place is pretty tempting. I won’t be entirely surprised if we find ourselves back there for another vacation a year from now. This was, for sure, one of the best trips we’ve ever taken. If it were up to Kyle and Owen we’d have spent the whole summer there.

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“I dream of simple things I can believe in, like the feeling this day brings, true love, and the miracle of forgiving. I believe in simple things.”


  • Kate says:

    My-oh-my! Sounds like such a soul-enriching experience for you all!! Your photos are amazing and it was a delight reading!
    – Kate

  • Jen Ogren says:

    Heather, thank you for writing about all of this. I felt like I was there with you! Sounds like an amazing vacation for all of you!!!

  • Bonnie Burroughs says:

    I love it when I read you are taking a Blog Break..because it just means there will be some great tales and awesome pictures coming in the near future!!

  • TiggerToo says:

    Oh, and I think you should send that photo to Sticky Fingers, of the twins posing in their Sticky Fingers t-shirts! Too adorable!!

  • TiggerToo says:

    Sounds like it was a relaxing trip aside from the deep and sad history lesson for the boys. Hope it didn’t put a damper on their vacation.
    Sorry to hear you had some mommy meltdowns, but us moms are entitled to our crazy moments, too! Was it too much cleaning, cooking and laundry that just got to you?

  • Em says:

    what an awesome trip – sounds like it was the perfect way to start a long and busy summer! I can’t wait to read about more of your adventures! 😀

  • MeganWheeler says:

    How cool that you were able to catch your own dinner! Yummy crabs! (and big savings on eating out, too!)
    Looks like a good time was had by all. It’s interesting to me how the twins look more and more different as they get older. I notice that Owen is taller with a lean build and has a thinner face, while Kyle is shorter with a stockier build and has a rounder face. I thought they looked so much alike in their younger photos. Just curious, do you and Braydon feel the same or did they always look very different to you?

  • Amy says:

    Oh we love Charleston, Beaufort, Hunting Island, the Gullah people and we always camp on Edisto Island. Glad you went and enjoyed it.

  • TRL2 says:

    I am somehow in some strange way kind of encouraged that you have mommy meltdowns … sometimes i think I am the only person losing my temper over having to beg for help cleaning up toys, messes, towels, etc etc …. You strike me as incredibly patient therefore it helps me to know that you occasionally implode too! Your trip looked amazing, I am longing to start doing something on a regular schedule with our kids and giving them some lasting memories of family trips. tara

  • Brad says:

    This is a great family blog and the photos of the Lowcountry are spot on when it comes to images of the South Carolina coast (e.g. boys on the crabbing dock and a stroll down Meeting Street). I try and get down to Charleston/Kiawah every year and this blog makes me miss it even more!

  • Ashleigh Reed says:

    Thank you so much for sharing! I am the Marketing Manager for Sticky Fingers here and Charleston, and I really enjoyed the photos and story that you shared! I would love to be able to share your photos if you don’t mind. Also, next time you’re in Charleston, please ask for me!

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