My father never really cared for the beach, but he loved the mountains, so my earliest vacation memories involve traveling a short distance to spend a week at a small cabin at Oconee State Park near Walhalla, South Carolina. Replete with hiking trails in the Blue Ridge foothills, the park is located near the Foothills Trail on the Blue Ridge Escarpment which goes to Table Rock. The main attraction of the area is Lake Oconee, and my two brothers and I depended on our little inner tubes to keep us afloat when our family of seven went swimming.
I remember one summer in particular, when I was five. Our cabin was just up the hill from the lake, with lots of trees in between, and I woke up early one morning, soon realizing that my father was missing. I asked my mother where he was, and she told me he’d gone fishing. I looked out the door as he climbed up the hill, carrying his pole and a few fish. Somehow it seemed heroic to me that he would go out to catch fish while everyone else was asleep.
We went to a square dance at the recreation building on certain evenings, and I loved watching everyone pair up and swing about the room. I especially noticed my older sister with her partner, having a great time. I was too young to participate, but one night my father let me stand on his feet and “dance” for a little while right next to the juke box.
We had some rain that week, so we had to find something to do inside. We played several card games, but the one that stands out in my mind is Old Maid. After we’d gone through a few rounds, I ended up with the Old Maid card. I might have been okay about it if my older brother hadn’t teased me mercilessly, saying that I was the Old Maid. (I don’t think he said that about anyone else who got it.)
It really bothered me, and my five-year-old mind decided that if I could get rid of the offensive card, I wouldn’t be the Old Maid. My solution? To toss the card out the door. I did so, even as the rain continued to fall, and I kept quiet when people started asking where the card was later on.
I thought I’d gotten away with it until we started to leave at the end of the week. My older sister laughed for years about how we went outside and found the Old Maid drifting in a puddle next to the cabin!