I’ll be honest. I didn’t really wanna go. My Mom rolled up on me at like 7 AM while I was still under the covers just like she always does when I’m home, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed announcing, “We’re gonna take you to Daufuskie tomorrow!”
My first thought (after mentally reminding myself to lock the door the next night) was, why? Isn’t it like, old and country and boring? Why would I wanna do that when I can lay out on the beach at Hilton Head for the 4th day in a row and get my fourth shade of chocolate wonder on? Because that’s really all I want to do when I’m on vacation. Lay on the beach with a beverage, a magazine and my iPod. However, the main reason why I decided against some posh all-inclusive resort at a tropical destination as my summer vacation is because I wanted to spend some quality time with my parents in South Carolina. So I replied, “Great!” and packed my little bag for our day trip first thing the next morning.
On the ferry ride down the Intercoastal Waterway to Daufuskie Island, the history that our guide spoke about was both comforting and disturbing. We passed several plantations where sprawling summer homes with large white columns and guest houses next door had been erected. The native South Carolinian in me wasn’t shocked by the fact that they were still called plantations but the all-grown-up-now New York rebellious Tracey was like “Seriously?? Why is it okay to call them plantations? Do they not realize what happened there? This is insane! Can anybody hear me? Is this thing on??”
But instead of leading a slave uprising with the sprinkling of other Black tourists on the boat, I just sat quietly and took in the historic charm of the landscape that still characterizes the Carolina lowcountry.
We stopped by a few landmarks including an old schoolhouse for Black children called the Mary Fields School, and the First Union African Baptist Church. My favorite landmark, however, was not listed on the map that we had been holding onto for dear life since we stepped off the ferry. From the road it looked like an old country store so we parked the golf cart under a tree and checked it out. After walking up the creaky steps onto the dusty front porch, we were greeted by a sign on the front door that let visitors know that while was nobody was inside, anything they cared to purchase was right there in the “outdoor gallery” where we were standing (the porch). The owner simply asked that customers leave their payment under the door, or a phone number so they could call for credit card processing.
No really. Not joking. And people actually did it. I read the guestbook and there were notes from people saying what they had purchased and how much money they had left. I was floored that this type of culture still existed! The honor system? Really? If I pulled one of these in Brooklyn I’d end up in handcuffs and the only note I’d be writing is a plea for bail money.
After a few minutes I noticed that there was indeed someone at the house. A young guy was on the side of the house carving a new piece of art out of what looked like iron scraps. I started to say something to him but after watching him for a few seconds I totally understood why people live on Daufuskie. They love the seclusion and quiet comfort that characterizes the island. There isn’t a single grocery store there and I’d put money on there not being a bar, movie theatre, restaurant, lounge or any other type of social setting either. And that’s just fine. Because the peace they attain in exchange for these social luxuries is priceless and warrants a few sacrifices of convenience.
Instead of inundating the guy with 500 questions about his craft, I said nothing, stopped taking pictures and sat in silence on the porch as he worked in the summer rain that had begun to fall. My mother rocked in an old rocking chair while my Dad struck up a conversation with another family that had wandered up from the road seeking shelter from the rain. The rest of the afternoon was similar. We sat. We waved at strangers. We wandered around semi-almost lost on our golf cart and chatted about things that don’t matter from 9-5. And it took a while for me to realize that even though I could never live there, moments like these are important to bring down the volume on life so you can hear what the trees, the birds, and your parents are trying to say to you.