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VOICES OF DAVIDSON

Virginia Beach Is on My Mind

by | Jun 5, 2019 | Bottom Left Black Box, Voices of Davidson

There: Virginia Beach

I was born there in August 1948. As I understand it, the last baby born in the old Virginia Beach Hospital.

My parents grew up there, living for years about a quarter mile apart on 53rd street and Crystal Lake Drive. Early ’40s, Mother went off to Converse College and Dad went off to war, a navigator in the Army Air Corps. He came home on leave in the summer of 1944 and, there on the beach, fell smack in love with the pretty young woman he had hardly noticed before. “Are you Jerry Rumble’s little sister?” he asked. She was. She saw him later that night at the Officers Club, and that was that.

They married there in 1945, at the Church of Galilee. Episcopalian. My sister wrote a beautiful song about their WWII romance, a romance that lasted 62 years.

When the babies came – first my brother, then me, and two more later — they took us to the beach there, on 53rd Street most every weekend. No sunscreen, but lots of lemonade, PBJs, Oreos. Thirty-minutes required after lunch before going back in the water. I learned to love that ocean, wading in holding some part of my father’s enormous hand. Tumbling in the salt water, jumping the waves with my brothers, and later, riding them in victoriously. Mother and Daddy chatted with friends and relatives who passed by, all day long. My father almost never sat down. More often than not, we were chased off the beach by a thunderstorm, hustled into dry britches and clean shirts for the ride home to Norfolk.

The beach – Virginia Beach – was a destination throughout my school years and beyond. Friends, dates, parties, cookouts, bonfires, kisses, sunlight, and moonshine. My parents settled there for years, so there I was for holidays and summers. My younger brother and baby sister went to school there. 

I know Virginia Beach.

It feels personal, but this moment is not about me.

I can make no claim to the massacre in the public works building, the loss, shock, and despair that has settled in there. I hurt for my cousin, who grieves for the friend and bagpiper band mate who lost his life there, but that senseless death is as close as the slaughter gets to me. I was not there.

But Virginia Beach. The town, now a city, the boardwalk, the salty air, the rough ocean, the music, it holds a treasured space in my family’s life, my life, my memory. We have boxes of black and white  photos to prove it.

I watch this American plague of senseless violence and loss creep ever closer, closer. And I am scared, furious, and bewildered that nothing seems able to stop it.

Sending love and gratitude, and deep, deep sympathy, Virginia Beach.

Meg Kimmel

A professional communicator with a long career in higher education, Meg now consults and volunteers in areas where words and images work together to tell a story. She's a proud member of Davidson's Class of 1977 and lives nearby with her husband, Don, Davidson professor emeritus of biology, with whom she shares a family grown by kinship and choice.

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