2/26/12 Beaufort, SC

Marshlands (is it weird that my grandpa’s house has a name?)

Only recently have I realized how amazing Marshlands really is. I guess I always knew, but I kind of took it for granted.

This house holds a lot of fond childhood memories for me. For several years, it was our family’s gathering place for Christmas. We would drive up from Titusville after the Christmas Eve service and arrive late at night. Christmas morning all the cousins would be up early (I distinctly remember one year being woken up by a horde of my cousins around 7 a.m. after I had stayed up ‘til 3, excited by the prospect of presents). Our parents would make us sit on the stairs while they took pictures. Then it was into the living room, where our presents were in piles under the giant tree. After the present opening madness subsided, we would line up in the kitchen where Pop would have a hot breakfast of grits, bacon and scrambled eggs waiting.

I don’t remember exactly when we stopped having Christmas there. I guess there just stopped being enough room to hold the growing number of cousins. But we still visited Marshlands fairly often. Pop was always making something in the kitchen. Mom would look through the fridge, throwing away expired orange juice and moldy cheese while Pop protested that they were still good. Mimi would serve us lunch and iced tea on the porch, always refined with her red lipstick and pleasant laugh. I would swing in the hammock and wave at the carriage tours that passed by in the street outside the front gate.

For a while after Mimi got sick things were the same. Pop would snore in front of the TV, waking up to say “I was watching that!” as soon as someone changed the channel. Mimi made rum cakes with increasing portions of rum as she lost her eyesight. But eventually, navigating the stairs got too difficult for both Mimi and Pop. They rented a small house near my uncle’s place. After Mimi died, Pop moved into the apartment underneath Marshlands, but no one lives in the main part of the house.

Going in Marshlands now feels strange and rather bittersweet. It reminds me of my childhood, of trying to pick the best candy out of the jar of old licorice that was always in the kitchen, of bouncing on the trampoline in the back yard, of thinking the gigantic wardrobe in the guest room led to Narnia. There are some more recent memories mixed in: the somber luncheon after Mimi’s funeral, trying on some of her fancy old dresses with the cousins.

I’m not sure what’s going to happen to Marshlands. It’s an old house that needs lots of repairs, so I don’t know who will take on the responsibility for it. I don’t even know how many more times I will have the opportunity to go inside. That’s the main reason I took these pictures.

I hope someone else will love it like my family has for so many years.