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Google Daufuskie and it will tell you about a “residential island” roughly 8 miles long and 5 wide. It’ll tell you about a small piece of land between Savannah and Hilton Head. I’ll tell you the truth. Daufuskie is more than that, much more. I rode my first horse on Daufuskie, a small pony named Chief with the heart of a full-grown stallion. On Daufuskie, my family and I hunkered down in the coziest cottages around. And believe it or not, on Daufuskie, I drove for the first time in a squat little golf cart that hugged the paved roads. Above all, there on that little island between Savannah and Hilton Head, my parents had the wedding of a lifetime.
The wedding began in the afternoon. I watched, waiting, as a woman helped Mom strap into her dress and tame the waterfall of curls on her head. I fidgeted, impatient for the ceremony to begin. As the flower girl, I had an important job to do: beautify the walkway with roses and petals and an adorable smile. The only problem? At ten years old I had the grace of a two-legged giraffe. It didn’t help being shoved into a frilly white dress and told to walk, in heels of all things. The wedding planner, who made sure everything went exactly as intended down to the very second, pushed me out onto the walkway. I stumbled forward, tripping over my heels.
I cowered behind the flower basket I held to my chest like a talisman that would protect me, freezing in my tracks. My heart sank. The outdoor ceremony came with a view overlooking the ocean side. Gnarled trees stood guard over the wedding procession, bent and crooked like wise old men. A placid seaside breeze stirred the grass.
I took a timid step forward and heaved a shuddery breath. The walk to the altar felt like walking a plank. Over and over I coached myself: step, stop. Step, stop. I tossed some flowers to my left. Step, stop. Step, stop. I sprinkled some to the right of me. Did people really walk like this? By the time I reached the altar, the wedding would be over. Whatever happened to a standard stroll and saunter or perhaps the regal march?
The walkway grew longer and longer as if I walked on a treadmill that never stopped, though I don’t know anyone who would do such a thing in a frilly white dress and heels. I swallowed hard and gripped the basket tightly. Halfway there. Step, stop. Step, stop.
I held up a handful of cherry pink petals. The wind snagged them from my fingers and sent them fluttering backward down the aisle. Uh oh, I thought, examining the inside of my flower basket. Empty. What kind of flower girl didn’t have flowers? My heart fluttered but I remembered to walk. Step, stop. Step, stop.
It felt like hours before I finally reached the altar, out of flowers and almost out of breath. I smiled at the people who’d come to see the wedding then took my place beside the bridesmaids clothed in rouge. A suited man stood holding a golden saxophone before the altar, his cheeks fat from blowing and his brow wrinkled with concentration. A bead of sweat slivered down his face. His foot tap, tap, tapped to the beat of the sax. Mom and Dad said their vows, how they promised to love each other and all that sappy stuff that my ten year old brain couldn’t appreciate yet. I shifted from foot to foot, daydreaming of all the food that awaited me at the reception-ham, macaroni and cheese, barbeque ribs and a giant wedding cake. My mouth salivated.
As the ceremony drew to a close, a curtain of clouds fell over the sun and the sky turned a faint and murky shade of grey. I craned my neck upward to see it, frowning. Something looked wrong. The sky, once a canvas of blue and lemon yellow, smeared into gloom. Above, a flash of blue split the sky in two. A low rumble shook the ground underneath us. A hush fell over the crowd. Could it be rain? I watched the skies, fingers crossed. Please don’t rain, I willed the weatherman in the sky, please don’t rain.
The saxophone man stopped playing, lowering his instrument briefly. He looked around himself, unsure of what to do. Then, with a nod from the wedding planner, he brought the sax to his lips again and blew, filling Dafauski Island with his jazzy tune.
After the wedding, I sat watching the wind tug and pull at the trees. The clouds hung low in the sky, heavy with water but not once did it rain. It seemed almost as if the clouds had kept it dry just for us. “Thanks,” I whispered to the weatherman in the sky.
Night fell as the reception wound down. Stuffed and tired, I watched as Mom and Dad twirled round and round on the dance floor. Together, they brightened up the room with their smiles. “Thanks,” I murmured to the island of Daufuskie. If only this day could last forever, I thought as I watched the sky.
The Island went bankrupt some years after our last visit. For a time, Daufuskie came under new management. When we visited the island again, everyone who we had come to know and love, the heart and soul of the island, had simply disappeared. Many of these men and women who came to work on Daufuskie had traveled from the little island of Jamaica. Their humor and culture filled the island. When they left, Daufuskie seemed a shadow of its former self.
Google Daufuskie and it will tell you about a “residential island” roughly 8 miles long and 5 wide. Small? Yes. It may not be Hawaii or the Bahamas, or even Bermuda, but it filled my family and I with dozens of unforgettable memories. Maybe one day I’ll go back, just to visit the spot I rode Chief under the trees. Or perhaps I’ll visit the site where we almost crashed the golf cart. And maybe, just maybe I’ll still see a petal flapping in the ocean breeze, one that I tossed onto the longest aisle I’ve ever had to walk.
Who knows, I may walk it again, only this time my dress will come with a veil and a five foot train. I won’t even have to practice the steps. I’ve memorized them after all.
Step, stop. Step, stop…