Two little girls, with freshly chlorinated hair and bare feet squished into laceless shoes, circled my husband and me on rust speckled pink and blue bicycles as we walked through the wet evening air to watch the full moon rise early over the Wando.
We had journeyed to this insulated little hamlet on the river in South Carolina to vacation with family after once again, an entire calendar year of adulting in LA had dwindled our resolve and we were in desperate need of retreat.
“Did ‘y’all go?” One eight-year-old-sun-freckled-face glowed with curiosity about what exactly these outsiders had been up to and whether they had sojourned to the spots someone of her age and vast life experience considered highlights of the Low Country region, like the Rivertowne swimming pool.
Their wonder and ease with “new folks” was something I hated to squelch as they raced up the dock, hot on our heels at high tide. But I introduced myself to a neighbor they apparently recognized and the woman and I conspired together before she asked:
“Have y’all ever heard of ‘stranger danger?’”
“Yeah, but it’s okay because I live in this neighborhood,” sweet freckles lilted.
“And you know me,” pink bike replied.
“But you don’t know me,” I said with gravity.
“Oooooh…Hey, wanna see a dead fish?”
Our quartet gawked into the murk below at the bobbing, bloated carcass rotting in the river’s ripples.
“I’m an animal lover,” a sweet sigh escaped.
Back on the shore, the duo stood pumping their pedals ahead of us as the last of the light faded and a car with low beams coasted to a stop rolling down it’s window.
“But Mamma, I didn’t lie, I was makin’ new friends.”
And the two little girls bolted for home racing up the driveway, disappearing behind the house.
I introduced myself to the woman who’d been slowly driving and searching since the streetlights came on. I wanted to ease any worries she may have about these strangers in the street. But true to my recollections of small town life, she had none and of all things, apologized to me.
“I’m so sorry, I hope they didn’t spoil your walk.”
Not at all. They reminded me of someone I used to be.