One week out of the summer, my friends from my college days lo these many years ago at Georgia Southern all get together at the beach.
I’m fortunate in many ways — one, that they remain my friends to this day and two, that it isn’t that far a drive to get to the north Florida coast where everybody is for that week. We try to plan that week some six to eight months in advance so everybody can fit it on their schedule.
I don’t get to see them enough or spend enough time with them. For New Year’s Day, they all went to Fort Collins, Colo., where my old roommate Lee lives and has some big job at Colorado State University. I saw the pictures on the Internet. It was difficult to see faces — because they were covered by ski masks and hoods and frozen snot. It was 8 degrees below outside when they decided to go snowshoeing.
But we get together during the summer as well, when my other senior year roommate’s family’s beach house outside of Jacksonville is open for a week. The first day I was there, there were 12 adults and 10 kids.
After graduating from Southern, Lee got his master’s from Miami and his PhD from Duke in marine biology. Tai, the other senior year roommate, is a veterinarian in Chattanooga and a very successful one.
From that summer before our senior year as roommates, one of us got a degree in biology, another one in chemistry and one in physics. They are ridiculously smart and far more motivated than I am. They’re great people, too — I owe them a great deal because they were there, unexpectedly so, in some of the absolute worst moments of my life.
We all met as members of the late, great Bell’s Honors Program at Georgia Southern. We were together virtually 24-7 during those early days. The beach house group is BHPers and family members, along with spouses and significant others.
They all went through the program, making it all four years. The program and I parted ways after two years. But I know that during their exit interviews, many of my friends, when asked what the worst part of the program was over the four years, said the day I was kicked out. Any wonder why I love ‘em so much?
Now, last week, my commitments here — they all scheduled vacations for the beach week — meant I was there in bits and pieces. I also happily got and carried to the house a box of sandwiches from Willie’s Wee Nee Wagon. They’re a fairly progessive-thinking bunch but food is food.
There was plenty of discussion of the world’s problems and who is to blame and how to fix them. I am mostly in the minority in these conversations but I can hold my own with them.
Since Tai is a vet, we had a discussion about the fish kill in the Ogeechee River. He was well versed in columnaris, the bacteria that wiped out more than 30,000 fish.
Since he lives in Chattanooga, he also had some stories about the storms and tornadoes that plowed through there and north Georgia, where his in-laws live. One of the ladies at the day care where his youngest child — a little girl they adopted from China — goes related the events at her house to him. She noticed the steady hail and figured this was a bad sign. What was next was even worse.
The hail stopped failing and started going back up toward the sky. She grabbed her husband and they bolted for the bathroom for the protection of the bathtub and just as they did, the roof ripped off their home.
When the storm subsided a minute later, she went into her living room and saw furniture. It wasn’t hers.
One of the great occasions at beach week is lowcountry boil night. On the Wednesday I went down, I had a feeling this was going to be lowcountry boil night. And I couldn’t stay. I had to get back. Somebody had to go to work in the morning.
And … of course, it was lowcountry boil night. And no, there wasn’t much left when I went back down two days later. Hey, 20 people in one house means a lot of hungry folks, adults and kids alike.
We’re looking to get back together for New Year’s Eve, this time back at the beach house, instead of the snowy, frigid Colorado mountains.
And maybe this time, there will be some lowcountry boil left.