Once a decision was made, I did not worry about it afterward.
- Memoirs, by Harry S Truman
It was nearly 25 years ago when our family left Berlin, Germany, and returned to the Columbia County home we had purchased six years before. Since this would be the final assignment of my husbands military career, we began making retirement plans.
We had hardly unpacked before a new idea we hadnt experienced on foreign soil - telemarketing - caught up with us. We learned quickly to decline most offers, but one call caught our settling-down-mood ear: an all-expense paid, two-day visit to Hilton Head Island, S.C., for which we only had to listen to a brief presentation about a new concept in vacation home ownership called time-sharing.
The trip sounded like a good idea. We loved the ocean, it was only three hours away, and we didnt have to buy anything. So the repatriated Seaborns drove to Hilton Head, enjoyed the shirt-sleeve weather and the beach - and signed on the dotted line to come back twice a year for the next 25 years.
We rode home in agony. What had we done? We still had children to educate. Had we let our 18-year transient lifestyle send the pendulum too far in the other direction? Had we put our new roots down too far? It didnt help that the first six people we told about our purchase thought someone of our intelligence should have known better.
How do you know theyll keep the place up... wont sell before your lease is up... wont raise the maintenance fee like a sky rocket in a year or two...?
But, we comforted ourselves, our salesman anticipated all those questions and sold us a parcel of answers, too: lowest maintenance fees on the island... you can always rent your unit for more than you paid for it, sell anytime... and youll always have precious vacation time for your family in one of the most sought-after spots in the country. Besides, his company was having a special offer if we signed that day: a third week for the price of two. So we signed. And today, 24 years later, as I look out my seaside window one more time, Im so glad we did.
The two, back-to-back summer weeks were for the family, but the off-season week was for me. I was just beginning to call myself a writer and I envisioned tomes of publishable prose inspired by the surf and solitude of that picturesque setting.
How well I remember that first, all-by-myself week - nice in the beginning, but so lonesome after a few days I couldnt think of a thing to write. Still, I wrote letters, collected sand dollars along the beach, and became acquainted with the island.
The next year didnt seem so lonely, and I managed to write a story that sold to a national magazine. Other years produced newspaper columns, magazine assignments, and thoughts of writing a book. As I recap the years, every year has produced something I may not have accomplished had I simply barred the door, unhooked the phone, and stayed home.
Much has changed since that first trek into the solitary unknown: My projects became better defined - including progress on a book about Columbia County history; I traded my typewriter for a computer; and the week seemed to shrink in size. When my family shrank, too, I sold one of the weeks for nearly as much as we paid initially for all three.
Yes, the maintenance fees have gone up, but so has the price of a room for non-members, and the fees are well-used. Constant refurbishing has kept my seaside villa in better condition than my own home.
Today, as I think about packing the car to come home again, my thoughts turn to that other return trip, and to all the times in my life when Ive wallowed in some kind of remorse: an indecisive purchase, a child improperly raised, and a marriage that didnt last long into the time-sharing years. But I wasnt wallowing this time. My 24-year string of inspiration is an on-going Christmas gift from a husband whose encouragement as much as anything else launched my writing career.
Even in the midst of sadness, delights remain and increase like the incoming tide, while regrets, if you let them go, dissipate like the outgoing tide as it creates distance between the shore and sea.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local free-lance writer. E-mail comments to seabara@ aol.com.)
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