It was 1970, we were 21 and 22, married less than a year, and driving south with most of our possessions crammed into a black Plymouth station wagon.
My husband, a Navy Seaman, had received orders to report to Glynco Naval Air Station near Brunswick, Georgia.
When we got the news, the first thing we sheltered mid-westerners did was look up Georgia in a US Atlas, discovering that it had a coast on the Atlantic ocean.
With just a couple of weeks to prepare, I resigned from my job at Victory Memorial Hospital, we moved out of our tiny, furnished apartment in Waukegan, Illinois, and were off, excited to be on this adventure together, marveling at just about everything.
Tennessee and the great Smoky Mountains, with small houses tucked away on hills and in hollows. Kentucky, fresh and green and friendly. We reached Georgia and drove through poor rural areas, surrounded by miles of beautiful Georgia pines, heading southeast all the way.
We arrived in Brunswick and kept driving, anxious to get to the barrier island on the coast that we knew was somewhere nearby.
We found our way via a drawbridge to a concrete causeway that wound through the marsh and, six miles later, led us to a smaller drawbridge and then it was there. A jewel, an island.
Walking to the boardwalk, experiencing the ocean for the first time, our senses were overwhelmed.
Dunes and clumps of waving sea grass. A long, wide, white sand beach. Immense space, the sky huge and blue. Sunlight on sparkling water. Long-legged birds playing with crashing waves and palm trees rustling in constant wind.
It was almost unbearably beautiful, and I think that’s when it must have happened, when this place made its way into my heart, never to leave.
Although, I didn’t know it then.
I didn’t know that we would walk that beach for endless hours, talking, planning, growing up, growing as a couple.
That we would drive the causeway late one night as a family of two and return a few days later as a family of three.
That we’d stroll our baby through streets lined with live oaks and Spanish moss to the beach where ocean waves would lull him to sleep.
That in the daily rhythm of our lives we would feel the pull of tides, and love the beauty and fierceness of the ever-changing ocean.
I didn’t yet know that for the rest of my life, this would be the place I would yearn for, the place I would return to again and again, at times in reality and at times in my imagination.
All I did know, that day, was that my wish was to live on this island. And maybe because it was a simpler time, I got my wish.
We found a real estate office and stopped in. Told them we needed to rent a furnished house for not a lot of money. They said they had one that would soon be available, gave us an address and told us to drive over and give it a look.
We asked if we needed keys and they laughed and said doors weren’t locked on the island. We tiptoed into the house (the occupants were out), looked around, went back to the office and signed a rental agreement.
And, as simple as that, we were living on the island, on Jekyll, our home.