When you hear the phrase “the edge of America,” you probably don’t think of South Carolina. The Wild West, with its ever-expanding frontier, or the Pacific coast with its infinite water, Alaska, maybe, or Hawaii. Folly Island, outside of Charleston, is neither the eastern-most point of the Eastern seaboard, nor the site of some brave last stand, but touts the nickname “the edge of America” regardless. It’s a rundown beach down, but that catchphrase captures the romance of vintage postcards, prompting a drive through traffic, traveling along bridges over marshlands full of cattails and Spanish moss, braving the crowds to dip toes into the warm water looking east, feeling like a pioneer at some kind of frontier.
I grew up traveling to the south, to the Florida Panhandle, actually, with its white sand beaches and rednecks, but driving through the south to get there. In a way, the south feels like home to me, something out of my past that seems almost stuck in the past. To me, Charleston was not so much the edge of America as the edge of memory. We traveled there for a wedding, the bride a former babysitter to my brother and me, one of seven children in a family that comprised a fair majority of our earliest memories. Reuniting with people who were so ubiquitous in your childhood, measuring your lives against each other’s yardsticks, inevitably leads to thoughts of how different life would have been if you hadn’t left, opening that biggest rift of questions, all beginning “What if…”
Charleston, SC, March 2012