Growing up on the beach is inherent to a Florida childhood. With two coasts to choose from, you’re never more than a 90 minute drive from the Gulf (no waves, warm water) or the Atlantic (bigger waves, colder water).
My parents were partial to Crescent Beach, south of St. Augustine on the Atlantic coast, for summers of sun and sand. It’s a liberal enclave in greater conservative North Florida, and prides itself on minimal development, historic preservation, and fierce environmental protection.
We had a social network of friends there too – people my mom grew up with and their extended family and friends. Namely, the Hamilton Family. Anna, the daughter my age, was my playmate. She ended up at New College too, which was a pleasant twist.
In 2009, my parents snapped up a condo in St. Augustine proper, in an 1800s building on King Street. As a 1/1, it was perfect for the two of them, but guests made it feel instantly cramped. I took friends up several times. It was missing a pool, and easy beach access. Instead, it offered urban European charm and the constant clang of tourist trolleys. Great for taking midnight strolls down single-lane cobblestone streets, but otherwise not particularly relaxing.
They sold that place in November, recouping their investment while looking for the next ‘second home.’
Enter Cubbedge Cottage, est. 1922.
Part of the Hamilton Family history, it is a charming, rambling, tin-roofed two-story classic beach home two blocks from the sand. White walls, slanted crown molding, creaky stairs. “Lot’s of nooks and crannies,” as told by my mom, who is thinly disguising her excitement to rehab and redecorate it by complaining about all the built up gunk from years of renters.
Please…she is in heaven.
So far, it looks and feels great filled with the hodge-podge of our family’s cast-off furniture. Pottery Barn malabar set, circa 1998, mixed with IKEA modern and key rustic touches like an un-finished coquina fireplace. Never too matchy, of course.
The property includes the main ‘cottage’ as well as a garage with apartment above, and a secondary, smaller cottage. Those are both leased by long-standing tenants my parents inherited. An orange tabby patrols the grass and gravel, though I’ve yet to learn its name.
Jean Hamilton, Anna’s mom, informed us there were ghosts in the house – friendly rather than frightful – at least since it was blessed and smudged with good energies.
Unfortunately, there are still a million bugs, and a handful of ghastly spiders. Such is beach and North Florida living…
This weekend I took Stephen for the first visit, and a deserved escape from work and life. It was exactly what we both needed.
Between whisper-quiet streets, cool breezes, an indoor hammock, and a day of bun-tanning, I felt supremely calm. No anxiety, no schedule. I sensed a similar ease about my parents.
Somehow I always knew they would end up in Crescent Beach. The permanent dunes hide a gorgeous, wide beach full of natural therapeutics. The neighborhood holds social interaction and camaraderie. Having a seasoned, well-loved resting spot, big enough for company, within walking distance to it all, just makes sense.
Friendly ghosts included.