We lost our church 'mother', Adelaide Snyder - longtime resident of Sandbridge & Norfolk. I say our 'mother', because St. Simon's Church was born on her porch in Sandbridge many years ago. She was the real energizer bunny and one of the most cheerful and interested/interesting people I've ever known and we will miss her. Her granddaughter, Joanna Reule, wrote this meditation on Adelaide and it was read in church on June 25th:
"It is early. Too early for this tired mother of four young ones to be up writing. But we are going to the beach today and there is no Grandmother. And so I wonder in the dawn, "how can Sandbridge, the Phoenix, the dunes, binoculars, tide charts, Martini Point, Baybreeze, Belanga's, Margie & Ray's, her bedroom with the look out window, lacey cotton nightgowns, blueberry man pancakes in the morning, red box wine with ice at night, homemade pickles, phone jangling, friends calling, sticky linoleum kitchen floor, dog hair and sandy living room, any of it, be there when she is not?"
"Lo!!!" she would boom when we would walk in the squealing front door.
"Lo!!! Who's there?"
"Hi, Grandma!" we'd say. "Who's that?" she'd demand back.
"Oh hello, Jo-Ah" - her Tidewater cadence was part of the air there.
"Stay off the dunes!" was part of the mantra when we were little. Going to Sandbridge was exciting and terrifying at the same time. My grandparents were untraditional in their affection. We children would go to them, like Squirrel Nutkin to Old Brown, and present our meager offerings of hugs or shouting in Granddaddy's ear who we were. And in return they offered us a glass house on the sea, built on history and legend. What hopes and dreams lured them to empty their pockets and build on sand? For their five children, a childhood filled with summer dreams.
But would they hear the whispers of what was to come? The grandchildren and great-grandchildren laughing, tumbling from the car, running to the beach like a pack of dogs, splashing in the surf, their suburban lives forgotten and the Sandbridge magic washing over them?
How much could they see? I believe they can see it all, now.
"Grandmother" was and is Adelaide. That ubiquitous name that flowers our family tree. She was a rainbow baby, giving hope to her Grandfather after he lost his own Adelaide. And so she did, growing into a lovely young woman under his adoring eye. Later she was a young bride, once again adored by another great man. The war took her husband away and she gave birth to her first child and became a mother. Mother to four before 30, and one more baby, a few martinis later; still beautiful and full or grace and poise.
Later she became my Grandmother, not to toot my own horn, but the only one of us born in Norfolk; and upon hearing my name responded, "Oh, hell!"
Christmas on Pembroke Avenue, parties and midnight mass, colorful candies, oranges in stockings, climbing in bed together, model trains, and Santa calling. Strong and revered, and loved. A granite pillar of a Grandmother.
Once upon a time, on a visit to see our family in Charlotte, as I frantically tried to prepare her shrimp scampi for supper and the children clung to me wailing, and the dishes dirty in the sink, and the dog barking, and my sweaty exercise clothes still on from the morning, she simply said, "Jo-Ah, we didn't do it like this when I was your age."
I better go. I can hear the excited clammer of children upstairs. "Sandbridge!" is every other word as they eat their cereal. And so we will go back to her beach house. I think the sea air will smell sharper, and the sand grainier, and the air crisper. We will probably hear her echoes in the waves. And if we squint, looking up to the Phoenix from the beach, we might see a figure with a cane and beach hat ambling down the dunes.