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C. Stroup – Volleyball, Anyone?

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Recently my husband and I took a trip to South Carolina, more specifically to Kiawah Island, SC.  Kiawah is a golfer’s paradise with plenty of country clubs, beautiful courses and vast sandy beaches.  Since neither of us golf and since it was really too chilly to go in the ocean you might wonder about our choice of destinations.  We went for the company we thoroughly enjoyed.

Twenty-nine years ago we were transferred from St. Louis to New Jersey by IBM.  Not knowing a soul I signed us up with the local YWCA to join a newcomer’s program.  This turned out to be quite an ongoing experience with the friends we made.  I opted for a couple’s volleyball group and from that we were randomly put on a team with four other couples who had moved to the area from various parts of the country.  Somehow we all just “clicked.”   Our team was one of twelve that competed monthly although it was all in good fun.  None of us were particularly fine players which encouraged us to practice once a week.  We used playing volleyball as an excuse to get together and have BBQs and good old fashioned fun times. 

There were other newcomer’s events such as wine and cheese parties, trips to nearby sites of interest and dances.  We always attended these together and became thick as thieves.  This went on for three years until one at a time we began getting transferred to other parts of the country.  We vowed to meet once a year for a volleyball reunion and to keep in touch.  I don’t think any of us actually believed we’d keep our promise but we did.

So following the transfers each couple took a turn hosting the reunion in their new surroundings or finding a place for us all to meet.  This included adults and nine kids in total for many years as they were growing up.  It’s been here in Texas five times and going back to when the kids were little…one highlight was the Double Oak 4th of July picnic and parade.  Even the adults took a ride on the fire truck.  Now compare that to going to a Broadway play or staying in a villa for a week, well it doesn’t really matter where we go or what we do.

We’ve gathered in Virginia, Connecticut, (more than once) New York, New Jersey, (several times) Tennessee, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, (this was our third visit) Georgia and I’m sure I’m forgetting some others.  But without going back through all the picture albums, this will do for now.  And those picture albums are really a hoot as we were all in our early thirties when this began.

About ten years ago we quit putting the volleyball net up.  The kids stopped coming and the adults realized their bodies couldn’t stand the punishment and embarrassment anymore.  And unfortunately we’re down to three couples and one single lady.  A divorce and a death among us shortened our membership but not the memories.

Memories of this latest gathering are still fresh in my mind so I’m going to share a few tidbits with you.

The airplane ride was just pretty uneventful.  And that’s good.  I made a trip to the ladies room at Charleston’s airport where there was a sign on one of the stalls that said, “out of order.”  A woman was taking a picture of the stall itself.  She said she was going to send it in to Jay Leno since there was no commode of any kind anywhere to be seen.  She figured the sign was redundant.

On our drive from the airport back to where we stayed, Bob and Kathleen, our hosts,  pointed out the local flora and fauna along the way.  I always get a kick out of the wild life indigenous to any given area.  I must say, Kiawah’s alligators are far too prevalent for my taste.  They really do wander around on the golf courses without supervision.  But the deer crossing the roads were dappled and could have been kin to Bambi.  Our hosts also have raccoon nests in their back yard which is mostly marshland until high tide.  The raccoons seem to pretty much mind their own business, except for an occasional visit to the trashcan.  Pelicans and osprey are everywhere and pretty brazen in their own right.

One afternoon we took a tour of downtown Charleston by boat.  The captain gave us the skinny on the harbor buildings as they related to the Civil War.  He was very informative and by and by we motored right past dolphins leaping ahead of the boat.  I enjoyed that part as much as any.  Afterwards we had dinner at a restaurant called SNOB (Slightly North of Broadway).  The food was excellent and the place itself wasn’t for snobs at all!

We also dined at a couple of the country clubs during our stay, indoors as well as outside, ocean side.  The weather was perfect…warm and balmy by day and cool in the evenings.  A daytime side trip took us to visit Angel Oak which is a 400-year old tree.  This thing is gigantic, 65 feet tall and over 25 feet in circumference with its longest branch being 89 feet in length.  It’s a gnarly old thing but quite famous and many newlyweds either have their picture taken beneath it or are married at the site.

Giving new meaning to the term “free-range chickens” was a farmer who pulled his chicken coop out to the middle of his field.  While the hens were sequestered in their coop they were in fact out on the range, ergo his sign.

I have to add that our hosts were most gracious including the use of the elevator from the garage up to the third floor where we stayed.  And I also have to add that some of the best time we spent was playing card games and laughing around the kitchen table.

So once again we had our volleyball reunion with no volleyball or net in sight.  What we do have is an ongoing celebration of friendship.        

Originally published in the April 2011 issue of The Cross Timbers Gazette.

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