Extra Pulp: Time After Time

Things haven’t changed much since she was a kid; Laura Anders Lee still relishes the lazy days of summer with her family.

David Vallejo

We typically spend July 4th at my parents’ place on the Florida-Alabama line. It’s not a modern, sleek house or a luxury condo on the white sands of the Gulf of Mexico, but rather a secluded and casual bay house. Going there is a real escape, a bit like going back in time.

Getting to the house still requires verbal directions—and I don’t mean from Siri. At the end of a long county road is a washed-out drive made from red clay, sand and oyster shells. For a half-mile, the road winds underneath gnarled oaks, around scrubby palmettos, and past 100-year-old beach houses. Then suddenly, it becomes a narrow causeway with Perdido Bay on one side and Soldier Creek on the other. It looks like the end of the road—if not the end of the world—and inevitably first-time visitors call us. “I think I’m lost,” they say. “Just keep going,” we assure them. “We’re the last house on the left.” (Although one friend made a wrong turn and ended up on the edge of a cliff!)

Because the house is so remote, we rarely leave once we’re there. Our isolation means there is no need for make-up, hair dryers and designer shoes—or any shoes for that matter. The nearest Walmart is 14 miles away, so my mom carefully plans the menu in advance so we have everything we need. We only make a run to the store if the fish aren’t biting or if we want more tomatoes and Silver Queen corn from the local farm stand. For dinner, we often eat outside on the boat house. Still in our swimsuits and wrapped in towels, we pick blue crabs with our fingers, the bay breeze fending off the mosquitoes.

If we do go out, we take my dad’s 24-year-old Cape Horn fishing boat to Pirate’s Cove. This beachfront, hole-in-the-wall has been around for generations, always lively with boaters and their sandy dogs. It just so happens to be the inspiration for Jimmy Buffett’s “Cheeseburger in Paradise.” After a burger and a Bushwacker, a heavenly blend of rum, chocolate and ice cream, it’s time for a nap.

Back at the house, my favorite resting spot is the swinging bed that my mom built herself and hung from the ceiling on the screened-in porch. Rocking back and forth, I listen to the gentle lapping of waves, the low drone of motorboats, and the rhythmic cicadas in the slender pines, and I drift off.Growing up, my parents didn’t allow a television or a telephone at the beach house. Today, it seems unfathomable we were that out of reach from friends and family, not to mention emergency dispatchers. But we never had a problem. The one exception was my dad’s portable radio for Alabama football broadcasts. Today, technology has infiltrated the house but not dominated. We have satellite TV and our cell phones, but without Wi-Fi nobody gets much work done. Our days are spent fishing, swimming, sailing, tubing, kayaking and chasing dolphins. At night, even with the option of television, we’d rather play an embarrassing game of Cards Against Humanity or have an old-fashioned sing-along on the porch. My brother, Will, plays guitar by ear and knows the lyrics to practically every song, or else we make up our own. When we’re not too settled, we venture out to The Point, a sandy peninsula where the brackish bay meets the freshwater creek. We light a bonfire and roast marshmallows, as families on distant shores shoot fireworks.

Will and I have families of our own now, and my mother is anxious for our children to experience everything we got to do as kids. (She put a crib in my room long before my husband and I were expecting our first child.) My oldest son, Anders, just turned 8 and is old enough to go crabbing at night, using a propane lantern and a long net to scoop up blue crabs. Crabbing was one of the very first adventures I remember taking with Will by ourselves. Guided by our own light, we waded along the shore until our bucket was filled. We are now passing the torch to the next generation.

Sometimes I feel bogged down by ever-present politics and technology—the world is changing so rapidly. But as soon as we turn down that shaded oyster-shell drive, I feel protected. At Perdido, life is still simple. A little disconnected from the rest of the world, we’re able to connect with family, nature and God. And there’s no place on earth I’d rather be.

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