“When oonuh dey yuh, oonuh dey home”—When you are here, you are home. – Gullah saying
This is a story about a gift.
The year was 1931 when a newly married young couple from Sumpter set off on their honeymoon. The road to Edisto Beach from the mainland was a long, arduous one. They crossed to the island on a one lane wooden bridge, built close to the water, that had only recently been completed; it had taken seven years to finish. Before that, you waited for the boatman to ferry you over the Dawhoo waterway. I love the story of nearby “Whooping Island,” called that because one ‘whooped’ to get the boatman’s attention. (And hoped he’d return for you!)
“To get to the beach, one had to open and close seven cow-pasture gates and travel by a deep-rutted dirt road”, their daughter tells me. She sent me a photograph of the little house, and told me the following story: Arriving at the sea finally, the newlyweds prepared to honeymoon in the small ‘shack’ built by their parents, which which was simply “a shelter from the elements”, she explained. Simply love and bright clear starlit skies of this island would have to get them through. This was the Lee-Fishburne shack, the first and only little house on the beach then. It was the beginning of Edisto Beach, as a family summer resort.
The newlyweds were greeted at when they arrived by Gullah native islanders, whose ancestors were slaves on the Sea Island Cotton Plantations. They brought the gift of a live chicken, for their supper.
The story inspired my small watercolor painting. The idea of this hospitable exchange between cultures and neighbors, which has been my own experience eighty years later on this island, my home near the sea, is a story worth repeating.