Edisto, SC – Heat like this has a relentlessness that is unnerving. You try giving it the slip, it follows you like a villain in a dream into the air-conditioned nooks and the sea-breezed crannies of your vacation days. There is no escape. As I sit in the local ice cream parlor/video store and ponder just how much of a giant scoop of black walnut ice cream I can fit into my mouth, a trio of teenage girls push open the door, the one in front pausing to impress some critical point upon the one in the back, and the heat surges in like a river of invisible lava, searing whatever is in its path. We are in its path. The fingers on Jack’s right hand are completely coated in light green ooze, as his mint chocolate chip cone melts aggressively right in front of him.
“Better eat that, bud,” I say, nodding at the cone. “Here, I’ll show you…”
We love Edisto. It is beautiful here, and the whole island has a weird, slow, almost surreal kind of vibe that just suits us to the core. Consider that the ice cream parlor/video store has more VHS movies than DVDs, and you may get the picture, so to speak. Consider that the best food on the island can be found in a restaurant that is attached to a gas station, and you will probably get the idea.
We stayed in a resort because it has a lot of things for the kids, who are not as keen on my wife’s plan to spend 18 hours each day on the beach as she is, and not so keen either on my plan to read paperbacks in a nice air conditioned room during the day and take strolls on the St. Helena Sound around dusk to see the sunset and watch the dolphins play games for the tourists.
Foolishly, I thought the kids would really, really marvel at seeing the dolphins, especially since they surface with such frequency and so close to the shore. On our first day there, we were strolling the St. Helena Sound no more than 10 minutes before half a dozen dolphins appeared just a couple of hundred yards out, rising and falling in that mesmerizing way of theirs. The six of them together looked like some kind of machine in the water, one big engine with fins as working parts.
“Look, guys!” I said. “Dolphins! There must be … one, two, three, four, five ... of them. No, six of them!”
Kayden was up ahead with her mother, out of earshot, inspecting a dead jellyfish or something, so I grabbed Jack and put him on my shoulders for a better look. I thought, this is kind of a Reader’s Digest father/son moment, the two of us awestruck into a pure and perfect silence by the unfathomable beauty of the moment.
“Cool, dad,” said Jack, after about two seconds on my shoulders. “Now can we go play putt putt?”
Jack’s addiction to putt putt goes back to late spring, when we took him to play in Maggie Valley. The whole family went, and Jack was immediately charmed by the brightly colored balls, the kid-sized putters, and the various and sundry challenges presented with each new hole. Let’s face it. A sand trap is one thing, but if you want a real hazard, try putting through a windmill or a giant castle or into a chute that comes out who knows where? And Tiger Woods thinks HE has problems?
On hole number four, Jack somehow banked in an impossible shot that ricocheted off everything in Maggie Valley except Joey’s Pancake House before landing in the cup. The crowd exploded. Well, Tammy and I exploded, while poor Kayden, who had already decided that putt putt was about as fun as getting a tetanus shot after hitting her bright green ball into the water, the sand, the rocks, even the parking lot of an adjacent business, did not even notice what had happened until she heard the excitement and looked up from picking at her fingernail.
“What?” she asked, absently.
At Edisto, if you stay on the resort, you can get a week-long pass to play all the putt putt you like. We played at least twice per day all seven days we were there, except for the day that we played on the actual 18-hole Plantation course. I rented Jack some clubs, and we were off for our 9:30 tee time. I used to be a pretty decent golfer, but since the much richer pleasures of family life — you are reading this, right, honey? — came along, I have played only twice in the past seven years, and that is if you include this outing. Even so, I was pretty sure I could take Jack out, since he has never played at all and weighs only a little more than a good-sized horseshoe crab.
Have I mentioned the heat? Even in the morning, it was as alarming as Joan Rivers’ facelift, so bad that the marshals hounded us for all 18 holes, practically begging us to drink the bottles of water they were riding around to give the poor saps who had actually chosen to play in this weather. Of course, it was the hottest day of the week, temperatures around 100 degrees, the heat index about what you’d need to roast a good-sized pig.
We drank water almost constantly, survived the round, bought the T shirt. No, we didn’t buy the T shirt, since T shirts in pro shops cost about as much as the average car payment. Instead, we opted for more ice cream.
“And after that, putt putt. Right, daddy?”
Who knows? Maybe one of those castles has an air-conditioned dungeon where I can finally read my paperback.