The exuberance of yesterday’s finish of the Ride to End Alzheimer’s was gone and in its place was the gentle flow of high tide at Alhambra Hall. As a young couple, this was our home away from home. Our former employer, a six-bedroom inn, the pinnacle of the Mt. Pleasant’s Old Village, now goes by the name of the Post House. We were young, energetic and full of ideas and we happily rode our two-seat bicycle to work less than a mile from our second-floor apartment.
After a year of marriage in the chaotic and often sketchy streets of New Orleans, this was our new home. It was quiet, tidy, and dignified as only a neighborhood of doctors, senators, and attorneys can be. We met a few young couples like us, Charlie, Lee, Valerie, Phyllis, Cheryl, David, and Peter. We often met for beer, boiled shrimp, or fried oysters and we helped one another with the occasional chore. We plotted, planned, and cheered one another’s accomplishments and enjoyed our young life in Charleston. Their faces flashed before me like old Polaroids weathered by dust and sun.
The Pitt Street pharmacy glowed softly, a small slice of Americana set against the questionable boutiques and atmospheric prices of this neighborhood. I snapped a photo of the Inn then chatted with the night auditor and we shared ghost stories and memories of life in this small hotel, then I slowly drove to Alhambra Hall.
On this Monday morning I’m here so early, the shore birds are the only ones awake. The saltwater tugged and pulled on the reeds and tiny crabs, the ones with that single enormous claw, scampered in front of me and stopped long enough to wave that threatening claw. A Red Wing Blackbird sang out from the safety of the reeds while a small flock of Brown Pelicans silently glided over the harbor. A Black Skimmer swooshed past, dipped his bill and left his fleeting signature in the water. Over my left shoulder, the bedroom lights of our former apartment clicked on. I closed my eyes, drew a deep breath, and walked through that apartment. I made my way to the kitchen and started a pot of coffee. In my pajama pants I danced down the stairs to the driveway, picked up our Post & Courier and smiled as our cat rubbed against me. In the harbor a menacing black shape, partially submerged, silently threaded its way through the harbor. Frightening, and inspiring, a submarine sailing into harm’s way was an incredible sight. I raced the cat upstairs where I poured two cups of coffee and found Amy in bed, her eyes still dreamy, her arms stretching out for coffee and a kiss.
A flight of Laughing Gulls, mocking me with their loud cackles, pulled me back to the present. I drew a deep breath and thought about how much I loved the smell of fog, salt water, and pluff mud. It’s an aroma of earth, salt, life, and history, and it’s only found in magical places along the shore. Places where the tide comes and goes and there’s still life in the water and green on the seabed.
I finished my coffee and headed to my car, stopped and turned back to the harbor. The morning light was just beginning to warm the steeples of Charleston, a trawler was noisily making its way to the jetties, and the tide would soon begin its retreat to the Atlantic. An unfamiliar voice interrupted my dream.
“Beautiful morning, isn’t it?”
“Is this your home?”
“Once upon a time it was. Lived nearby and this was my front yard.”
“Wow. That’s very cool. You’re a lucky man.”
I took another gaze at the harbor, drew a long breath, agreed with the stranger then headed to my Ford.