I grew up coming to Crystal Beach, spending time every summer when my maternal grandmother rented a beach house for a week or two. I grew up enjoying the warm Gulf of Mexico (sometimes more than warm, admittedly). I learned to deal with tar balls, with red tides, with dead jellyfish. When I was a teenager, I remember baby oil and beach towels and tanning far more than is considered healthy today. And the movies of the 60s also made beach life look enticing — of course, those beaches were in California an had Annette Funicello and others. Our beaches weren’t so pretty. And had entire families, not just perfect-looking teenagers. I even remember one summer when there was a big tiki hut with live music and dancing — right on the beach.
So when I found a small beach house in 1997, for a reasonable price, I snapped it up. It was an old fishing camp from the 1960s, probably. Lots of stained plywood. No insulation. It was about 650 square feet in size, an “open-concept” home with one bathroom. During strong winds, you could feel the whole structure give in the wind, as the design was meant to.
Hurricane Ike completely destroyed it. All I had left was a cracked slab and some twisted poles. For a few years, I had a small camper trailer set up on the slab. But that was limited in its appeal (for me, anyway). Kay and I talked about re-building, but didn’t follow through until after Dad died.
We had very similar ideas and had no trouble deciding on the design. Our builder, AM Coastal, was great to work with. We selected colors, granite, flooring. We paid builder’s insurance.
First the slab had to be removed, and then we had to have dirt work so that the lot was a bit higher, even with the neighbors’ lots so that rain didn’t pool on the lot, creating a lake. Finally, the pilings were put in, and building began.
By last fall, it was done. We’d paid for it, together. It was ours. Utilities are in my name since I already had accounts for this property.
Kay and I took possession of the beach house not quite a year ago. We moved furniture in, using what we already had or had bought. I’d bought dishes and pots and pans, getting kitchen stuff. I’d bought a small armoire for my bedroom. In a local antique store in Lake Charles, I found a white iron bed that I fell in love with, and bought it. We found wingback chairs in that same store. And another visit there meant we found a small Duncan Phyfe table that was perfect for our new place. By the time we took possession, we had been buying and putting things aside, so we had enough to set up house.
I’ve spent time here, but not recently, and the last couple of days have reminded me just how new it still is. And how new an experience it is for my sister and me to share ownership and responsibilities.
We don’t have a large yard, not at all. And while we don’t have a lot of grass, it needs mowing. Unfortunately, we had not bought a mower yet, and it was time. Kay brought a weed-eater, and she used that the last time she was here. Yesterday, I bought a rotary mower, reasoning that such a small yard shouldn’t take much effort. Ha.
Today was a scorcher and I spent too much time even in the shade putting the mower together. When I’d finally finished, I tried to use it and discovered that I had the handles on backwards, which meant that the mower was only working when I pulled it toward me. Clearly, that was not ideal. I sat down, unscrewed the handle and flipped it into the right position, screwed the handle on again, and then it was right. I spent a few minutes trying it out, liked it, and then tried to mow the back strip of yard behind the house.
That’s when I realized that the grass was not only high and thick, but that there was more than just grass. There were different kinds of trash grass, and those were difficult to manage. Five minutes of frustration later, I gave up. The heat was too much. I rolled the mower onto the concrete under the house. I rinsed off in the sand shower and walked upstairs. I hadn’t realized just how hot the day was until I panted, chugged down a glass of water, and rinsed off again in the shower. I lay down on the bed and was out for a short nap.
Later in the afternoon, after it had cooled down some, I tried again, and quit more – the mower blades kept getting stuck in the grass. Conceding that I was defeated, I unlocked the storage room, rolled the mower in, and locked the storage room again.
It’s been a couple of days of discoveries. Yesterday, I had to text Kay to ask about the water heater — it didn’t seem to be on, and the water was lukewarm at best. Only then did I learn that there was a switch to turn the water heater on, that it was in the laundry area right by the breaker box, and that it was in fact not flipped on. Easy fix. Hot water with no trouble now.
Since I was here last, back in March or so, Kay has brought over the sleeper loveseat she found at an estate sale, gotten it into the living room, and covered it with the cover that I bought. At last, a real loveseat. With the two green wingback chairs and a forest-green leather footrest, the new seating really makes the room look right. Bit by bit, we’re making our beach haven ours. This week I’m going to look for a small table cover for the small round table in the corner, and I think I’ll look for a small bookcase for my bedroom. I need some shelves for storage.
Kay and I divide the expenses pretty evenly — the water bill comes to me, the electricity bill to her. She had satellite TV service installed. I’ll take care of internet — if I can ever find a service that we can afford. Apparently, AT&T internet service isn’t available on our street. I think it is there only a few streets away, maybe even on the next street over, because I can see AT&T wireless when my browser searches. Alas, coverage is not full. Our satellite television provide doesn’t provide internet. It sort of sub-contracts to another satellite internet provider, but the cost is high and the reviews are really bad. So for now, I’m using the iPad and the cellular option. Even that doesn’t always work. My cell phone coverage is spotty too. Problems, problems — minor ones, admittedly. I can manage.
But it’s funny, in a way. It says something about how Kay and I have slightly different priorities — for her, cable TV was really crucial. Not so for me. I’m happy with DVDs, though I admit I enjoy having cable TV now. Indeed, it is on while I’m working on t=my blog! For me, though, internet service is higher on my “must-have” list. While I can make do with what I have using the iPad and cellular service, I’d much prefer full service. I use the internet a lot — to read, to research. And to work on my blog, of course.
Not having it always available has made me recognize just how spoiled I am. It’s good in a way, since I’m learning how to manage with less. Not having it always available will force me to do other things — work on crafts, write, and maybe sew. That’s not a bad consequence, actually.
Kay’s been here during the summer — and I will now spend more time here since I’m back from Greece. I’m freer to spend time anytime I want to, not just on weekends. THe perks of retirement again. For years, the beach house that Ike destroyed was my runaway refuge, a place I could reach in two hours, an escape for a few days. Now I’m freer to be here.
Fall and winter are maybe my favorite times here at the beach. Summer crowds are gone. It’s comfortable and not crowded. I can hear the surf most days, just sitting on the deck. In a couple of minutes, I can walk down to the beach and look for seashells or sea glass.
If it rains, I just stay in and enjoy the soothing sounds of the rain. I snuggle under quilts with books.
So today when the rotary mower wasn’t working the way I wanted, I put it up. I’ll be here all week. Tomorrow, I’ll try Kay’s method — the weed-trimmer. If I can reduce the grass height some, then I can use the mower. I don’t have a time-frame for completion. If I can get a little done at a time, that’s fine. I just want to deal with it by the time I return to Lake Charles.
By tonight, most of my neighbors had packed their cars and left to return to their full-time homes, probably returning to work. I had the satisfaction of walking back upstairs and turning on the television, grabbing a diet Coke, and sitting with the dogs by my feet.
It’s a new beach house, one with three small but quite nice bedrooms, one bathroom, and a living room-kitchen. It’s about 825 square feet in size. There’s insulation, of course (something the old place did not have). Central air and heat.
Bit by bit, it’s becoming a home. While I was gone, Kay bought a double bed for the third bedroom, so it now has that bed and a sleeper chair from Ikea. We could probably have 8 or 9 people, I think, if we needed to.
She’s had friends here. I’ve had friends here. We spent Christmas here, our first since Dad died – and we started a new family tradition, I hope, of spending our Christmases here.
It’s close enough to run into Galveston for shopping or visiting. We’ve got a cousin who lives on the island. And we’ve got another cousin who lives south of Houston, just off I-45, about 20 minutes beyond Galveston and back on the mainland. That’s wonderful, to have family so close.
This week will be a welcome one, one I am enjoying so far. I had an old friend drive over Friday, and she left today. While we were in Galveston yesterday, I got to visit with a friend from grad school at Texas A&M in College Station — she was visiting her son, and we are connected on Facebook. What a treat to see her and catch up face to face!
Tonight, though, I’m sitting here with my Gypsy and ZsaZsa, the Shih Tzus, in peace and quiet. I’m feeling very grateful tonight, and very thankful.
Maybe I’ll get some decorating done this week. In between attempts to mow the grass and trips to the island. And I’ll write. Work on some jewelry. Nap, of course. And read.
Beach time. Good times.