In the Great American Tradition of Squatting

November 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

When my sisters and I were kids, our father built a cabin on the Outer Banks, the Cape Lookout National Seashore to be more specific. It was early in the 1970s. No, he didn’t own the land–and that was part of the charm for him. He was introducing his children to the great American tradition of squatting, he used to say.

Whenever I tell stories from this time in my life, my friends will say I should write about it.  A couple of years ago at a writers’ retreat in California, author Phyllis Theroux said, “This is your Little House on the Prairie.”  And I think it is.

But here’s the problem.  Though I rate this adventure as one of the most influential aspects of my upbringing, I struggle to remember the particulars.  My mother and sisters do, too.  Our father knew every detail. If only we’d listened more carefully to his stories. If only I’d videotaped it all or written it down.

But I didn’t. He died eleven years ago. Now I’m trying to fill in the details–the names of the other families who were our fellow squatters, the places we rode in our rusty old beach buggy, the adventures we had surviving storms, battling mosquitoes and learning to catch our own food.

As I research, I plan to store that information here. I hope that, perhaps, someone may happen across this and have a little something they can add.

And I’ll tell you something I wish someone had told me.  When your nutty parents tell their crazy old stories you’ve heard a million times–pay attention.  Write it down.


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