Today’s post is by guest blogger Jennifer Vallone
It was forty years ago, on their honeymoon, that my parents first experienced the magic of the Outer Banks. Then, the barrier island seemed almost untouched – 200 miles of tranquil waves, rolling dunes, and gentle breezes; it seemed that there wasn’t much in sight, aside from a future that they hoped would be rich in blessings. It was, and still is, an idyllic place to celebrate love – a seascape so picturesque it seemed it could only exist within the imagination of a romance novelist.
My Dad had imagined what it would be like to one day have a home on that heavenly barrier island, that special place where they kicked off that summer of 1976 as newlyweds. He later came to describe this wish as a pipe dream – a mere fantasy. As their family expanded, which includes three children, my Dad worked hard to put his wife and kids first; he was cognizant that supporting a family on a military salary meant that the fantastic notion of a beach house seemed only that –a notion.
We began vacationing as a family to the Outer Banks when I was about 3 ½ – always staying in The Village at Nags Head. At an early age, I was exposed to all the natural wonder that this part of North Carolina has to offer. My dad, passionate about fishing and the beauty of lighthouses, orchestrated day trips to Cape Hatteras and cruises on the Crystal Dawn. Every year, my brothers and I would excitedly flip through the Village Realty catalog and pick out our favorite houses – always hoping my parents would rent the oceanfront ‘one’ with the pool table or video games. Heading to Nags Head every summer was a tradition; we’ve shared summer rentals with grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends that became family. Setting out for the trip down was always a blast, listening to ‘Jimmy Buffet’s Greatest Hits’ and using walkie-talkies to communicate throughout the caravan.
My parents revolved their schedule on vacation around their kids – whether taking us go-karting at Dowdy’s, water sliding at Diamond Shoals, or exploring at the North Carolina Aquarium. Our joy was their joy – that’s what family vacations are all about. A single week spent at Nags Head creates a lifetime of memories – many involving stories that no matter how often they are told, still result in hilarious bellow laughter and a nostalgic smile.
Shortly before the arrival of the millennium, my dad and his dear friend, whom we’ve been vacationing with for years, were taking their usual morning walk around the Village when they spotted a small blue ‘for sale’ sign, which sat atop a plot of sand that was adorned with dune grass. This property was significantly cheaper due to the likeliness that it wasn’t suitable for building on due to various reasons, including its small size, underground water lines, and easement limitations. Despite what had seemed like unbreakable barriers, it turns out the lot was mistakenly marked for the water lines that would’ve outlawed any construction. With this knowledge, my dad and his friend took a leap of faith and co-purchased the property that was once probable to remain vacant forever. Year after year, we continued to enjoy our weekly summer vacations in Nags Head; whenever we’d drive by that lot, my Dad would blissfully point to it – which was then only recognizable by a tiny orange flag that had been erected by Dare County – a small, yet meaningful reminder of ownership. In 2009, just shy of the New Year, a dream that was once a world away became a reality. What now sits on that lot is a labor of love – a product of determination and resilience, which my Dad named ‘Lagniappe’. Having been stationed in New Orleans for several years while serving the Coast Guard, he became familiar with the Cajun phrase, which in French means ‘a little something extra’.
After the house was finished, five years came and went rapidly, like any holiday at the beach and then suddenly, my Dad passed away. I often thought about how he would no longer be able to enjoy the breathtaking champagne hues that drenched the Soundside at sunset, or cast another line in the brisk, early morning air, but in his absence, he’s left us with a legacy, a passion for the simple pleasures in life – spending time with the people who mean the most to us For our family, the Outer Banks isn’t just a location on a map; it’s home; it’s a sanctuary soaked in the comfort of peacefulness and beauty – where we can share a warm hug, hearty laugh, or cold drink– the little extras.
What a wonderful tribute to Jennifer’s dad and to the Outer Banks. I am always looking for guest bloggers, so if you have something you want to share, please email me at J@VROBX.com
Until Then, I am
Your Outer Banks Blogger (Jeannie)