Monthly Archives: July 2012

Heading for the Outer Banks: Better visit while it is still there!

Barrier islands are notoriously capricious, they like to shift, move, or sometimes disappear. Whenever we get ready to go to the Outer Banks for our summer beach house experience I always hold my breath and hope there will not be a hurricane like that of a few years back when the island was breached.The life of the islands is finite, but I hope they hang in there for a long , long time.  Highway 12 is not a picnic anytime, but because we go at the end of July/beginning of August, and because school starts so early these days, the traffic and crowds have usually died down. I imagine the most perfect times to visit Hatteras and Ocracoke are late spring and early fall, but late summer is probably a close third.

I have a standard shopping list, tweaked now that the Food Lion has been built in Avon. The house this year is actually in Avon and is Sound side, so it should be a slightly different experience. Of course, the brochure for the house always says that it is ” a short walk to the beach” but over the years I have come to discover that what some people consider a short walk I consider the sand version of a death march. This year I have bought a beach cart at least so we will just have to push/pull/drag our stuff in the cart. The big wheels are supposed to make it easy to pull on sand. We shall see.

We are not all day beach folks except for the excursion to Ocracoke on Wednesdays. That day we pack a picnic lunch ( we used to go into town and eat, but that was about a $150 tab and the food was not memorable, unless you are fond of eating with the smell of rotting fish and gull and pelican pop) ride the ferry over ( 45=55 minutes) after wandering through the little mall by the ferry dock, which always makes the men crazy because they are sure we are going to be gone when it is time to board the ferry, but the ferry wait is always 45 minutes or more. We have never figured out the system. Sometimes you can be in what you think is the first row of cars and find out you are the last row or the middle row, nevertheless we have never hopped right on the ferry.  Despite that my son and my husband and my son-in-law all always caution us when we head for the shops ” take your phone, you never know when they will board. ” After the fun ride and debarkation ( I love the sound the cars make riding over the metal gangplank of the ferry–is there any other sound that means vacation as much, besides the sound of the ocean itself?) we set out to  find a nice spot for the picnic. There is a really good spot near the beach boardwalk with picnic tables and trees for shade, we have been lucky enough to get it the past few years. Then we pack everything back in the cars hop on the boardwalk and attack the beach for three or four hours. I am constantly exhorting everyone to come back closer to shore as the wretchedly daredevil grandchildren make repeated attempts to be swept out to sea on their boogie boards. Last year and this year there have been shark attacks at Ocracoke, another fun thing to worry about, nothing like loss of a chunk of flesh to put a damper on the vacation. . I am always relieved when we are back in the pool, no sharks for sure.   We finish up by going to souvenir shop on the outskirts of town. Sometimes, depending on whims or the weather, we actually go into town and shop a bit. My son-in-law Adam is particularly fond of one venue for tee shirts.Then back on the ferry for the trip back to Hatteras.

The evening of the Ocracoke trip is usually pretty quiet, after a day of sun and fun and sailing and eating and shopping. That evening we either play five hundred rummy or monopoly. It is too low key for a game of Quelf, that is reserved for Thursday, which is usually a mainly pool day and shrimp on the barbie evening. By Thursday everyone is getting a little restless, the week is winding down, we are all a little sad, but all also have something we want or need to get back to.  There are usually by this time some good sunburns, our hair generally is a hot mess from being washed several times a day, burned by the sun, exposed to salt water one minute and chlorine in the pool the next and we all eyeing the food which is still left with dismay. How are we going to eat all that in the remaining two days? If we don’t eat it how are we going to not feel guilty.  Fortunately for our consciences we discovered an island pantry for the disadvantaged. They will take virtually anything un-opened to give to the poor on the island. I am not sure if they give to poor tourists or not, I have to ask this year. So, we can drop off our big bags of tortilla chips and all of the other things that never got opened. For some reason we always have a plethora of crackers, cereal and peanut butter. I think I will not buy peanut butter or crackers this year ( which of course will mean they will be in high demand).

We cannot keep fresh fruit–a couple of years ago I tried to thwart the fruit flies by buying things I did not think they would eat, nectarines, yellow apples,fresh pineapple as well as the standard grapes, red apples and bananas. All I was able to do was introduce the children to new fruits they discovered they liked. My nectarines and pineapple disappeared just like the bananas and apples and grapes. If  i want to make peach pie I have to hide the peaches under my bed or they will be devoured before I can make the crust. Potato chips and any soft drink known to man and hot dogs and lunch meat and cheese and eggs and bread and bacon all disappear like ice cubes on a North Carolina sidewalk in summer. Some casseroles, made in an attempt to cook easy dishes that serve a lot, on the other hand have to be fed down the garbage disposal every year. One year the house did not have a garbage disposal. Have you ever tried to dispose of a large bowl of pasta casserole without a garbage disposal and with a limited amount of trash space?

The trash is picked up twice a week, typically Tuesday and Friday and no matter how well we plan we always have the most trash by far between Tuesday and Friday. To begin with the Wednesday Ocracoke picnic creates mountains of debris. Last year we bought hoagie kits. Since there are 11 of us we had to have two packs. Each piece of cheese and piece of lunch meat was separated by a piece of paper. Add to that the outside wrapping, teh paper bags from the store and the boxes the sodas and drink boxes came in and it was an avalanche. We also got through massive amounts of paper plates, paper towels and napkins. Yes, I know, that makes us some variety of environmental rapists, especially on a barrier island, but if we used a real plate every time someone wanted a piece of pound cake or a few chips we would spend all our time loading and unloading the dishwasher. Not to mention that waste water from the dishwasher is also politically incorrect and we certainly cannot use cloth napkins. I doubt my grandchildren would know what one was as a matter of fact, maybe Marrisa, the oldest one would, I vaguely remember at least one holiday where I trotted out linen napkins and napkin rings when she was small in an attempt to imprint her with some degree of class. I wonder where those napkin rings are? They were cute. But I digress.

So, we are 12 days from the beach house. I have already started filling a corner of the dining room with stuff to take. Recently purchased pool toys, hush puppy mix ( they stopped carrying my favorite brand at the Food Lion) a few bottles of my favorite Argentinian  wine not available on the island , dishwasher pods, detergent, fabric softener sheets, dishwasher soap, regular soap, toilet paper, paper towels ( all too expensive on the island) a well stocked first aid kit ( primarily needed for sunburn, splinters and bug bites) and lots and lots of bottled water.

In less than two weeks the Ohio folks will start the journey down, Wayne, Marrisa Natalie ( Marrisa’s college roommate)  and I will head for the beach for our first day alone. We will pick up the keys, hit the Food Lion and head for the house, schlepping in about 200 bucks worth of supplies on top of the stuff we bought. Come to think of it with two young women along we probably had better plan to hit the house and unload first and then hit the store. Anyway, it will be fun, followed by the traditional coney island dinner and first walk to the beach  no doubt followed by at least a quick dip in the pool and then a quiet evening to get ready for the next wave. I know it will be fun and frolic as usual and we will continue to build memories that will make us smile for years to come. Sometimes at Christmas we have to rehash funny events or comments from the beach house, already thinking wistfully of the fun this year and the anticipated fun of next year.

Beach house fun will always be, just as long as we have we. ( Apologies to Dr. Seuss)


Posted by on July 16, 2012 in Uncategorized


Feminism: Having it all!

Being a woman of a certain age i can remember the embryonic efforts of the modern feminist movement well. Feminism in its early days of defining itself was almost exclusively for white women. This was congruent with the schism that occurred in a once combined coalition to fight for women’s rights, including the vote and for racial justice back in the 19th century. In a nutshell some of the white women leaders of the early fight for women’s rights who had originally partnered with Frederick Douglass and DuBois and other blacks  decided that 1) black men had been given the vote, at least theoretically by the 15th Amendment, hopscotching them over white women as far as suffrage was concerned and 2) that linking white women’s rights with black rights was not going to help the white women, so therefore the white women needed to break off and pursue their own interests. This early decision would set the stage for much of the later feminist movement, unfortunately in many ways carrying on to the present day.

In the 1960s and 1970s the Woman’s Movement, in many ways riding the coattails of the Civil Rights Movement, began to organize, develop a philosophy, garner media attention and generally try to set the stage for true change in the status of women. In many ways I think it has been a roaring success. If nothing else it has encouraged a variety of individuals and organizations to examine the role or roles of women. In other ways it has been less than successful. In ideological wars feminism has suffered at the hands of right wingers and conservatives. The righties have been successful to some extent in associating feminism with all kinds of bad things, from not shaving to hating men.  When I talk to groups of young women I often ask them to raise their hands if they consider themselves feminists. Few hands usually go up. I then begin to list some of the tenets of feminism and ask them to raise their hands if they agree with each one. Almost all hands go up. So, it is the word, not the philosophy that they object to. This is not an accident, but an attempt to marginalize and control women. The recent brouhaha of Rush Limbaugh calling a young woman scholar who wanted her birth control covered by insurance, a “slut” is only one more indication of the right’s attempt to demonize anything that would lead to less control over women.

The early Movement, however, did not resonate with many or even most women of color. One of the primary issues raised was the woman’s right to work outside the home. Since most black women had been working outside of their own homes, many of them in the white women’s homes who were complaining,  this did not garner much support in the black community. With the rise of civil rights legislation and with the liberation movements in some other countries that were happening, women of color decided it was time to have our own brand of feminism, or more accurately to have our existing and historic feminism codified and recognized. The linkage of feminism and Critical Race Theory helped expedite this and now there is a great body of scholarship about black feminism and how it is similar and different from white feminism.If there is any doubt that there is a difference a quick review of the literature will dispel any reservations.

The exception that is being taken recently with feminism is its historic elitism. Most of the issues championed by feminists traditionally have been of interest to middle class white women almost exclusively. With the rise of the black middle class following the Civil Rights Movement there were black women who could relate to the difficulty of “having it all.” The fact of the matter is, however, that what has been considered having it all, or what the all is, has been defined primarily by upper and middle class white women. A lucrative, challenging career, intelligent, well-cared for children, a gorgeous home, a loving husband or perhaps wife and a vibrant social life are all elements of having it all. The fact that some of those things are out of the reach of any female from a background that does not include privilege and wealth seems to have been ignored. In the revered American belief in the Myth of the Meritocracy, only this time dressed up in a dress, if you wanted all of these things as long as you were sufficiently driven, confident and savvy you could have them. Like the more pervasive general American  Myth of the Meritocracy it is all smoke and mirrors, designed to hide the wizard behind the curtain cloaked in money and privilege.

I have led a privileged life, particularly for a black woman, although I have never been what I considered wealthy I have been what some people would consider wealthy and I certainly have had other privilege, from being light and having “good” hair to having a stable nuclear family both growing up and of my own. We actually have, at one point or another had a three bedroom home, two cars, three kids, two jobs and a cocker spaniel.  Because of my privilege, and not without personal effort of course, I have managed to just about have it all, but not at the same time. My husband and I dedicated ourselves to being the best parents we could be. That meant when they were home our kids were the center of the family activities. Their schedules ran our days, from practices to performances to activities. And, fortunately, we enjoyed it. My husband coached, so did I, at least on a couple of occasions, and we were always there when they had games, plays, concerts, whatever.

But, I taught high school, which did not require me to be absent from the family circle. Only when they were grown did I transition to higher education. Almost all of the travel, speaking, conferences,, and publishing I have done happened after they were grown. I did not move more than four miles or so from any of them until I was 55. they moved in some cases, but I kept the home fires burning. Looking back, especially now since I am kind of retiring–leaving one job for a different one, I think I have had it all. I have always had my own interests and friends , have had intellectual stimulation of some kind and have made a mark in several ways from my scholarship at the Library of Congress to my establishment of organizations and development of classes.

So, my response to the cries that feminism has sold a middle class, white woman, view of the possibility of having it all I say, not true. You can have it all, you just may not be able to have it all at the same time. But nobody ever said it was going to be at the same time, or that it was going to be easy. But we can do it all, have it all and be it all, we are women!

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Posted by on July 9, 2012 in Uncategorized