March 24, 2015

Eccentric is as eccentric does

Very few stories can make me long for my childhood days on an organic vegetable farm. It's hard work and sometimes the only thanks you get is an algae filled pond with fish biting your toes while you drift on an inner tube. Rarely am I inclined to long for that life, but I remember the last time I did. I wore a necklace the other night and received several comments on it, to which I replied, "There's a story behind it." (To which my friends replied that they were not surprised.)

Our family has spent many summers on the Outer Banks of NC. We fell in love with the area during Hurricane Dennis in 1999. How funny is that? The first time we visited, a hurricane did as well! For years we returned to those beaches, enchanted by the wild horses, the fresh fish, and the relaxed pace of life.

There is an area of beach that is only accessible by four wheel drive vehicles. It's on the North Carolina/Virginia border. One summer, we went exploring. As we traveled further north, we would occasionally see signs for "Libba's Place" with the encouragement to come visit.

After seeing the hand-painted signs for mile upon mile, we decided to indeed go visit Libba's Place. Mr. Fresh was more skeptical than curious, but a bit of prodding helped us find Libba's Place.

We pulled up to a ramshackle beach house, with a chicken coop, a "beach museum" (as she called it) and other oddities. She also had a gift shop that appeared to not have been visited in years. She was an ageless sort of older, somewhere between 50 and 80, but impossible to say. Her weathered skin had not seen many days of sunscreen, as evidenced by her deep smile lines. Wearing an over-sized man's shirt, glasses on a chain around her neck and hair in a disheveled bun flying errantly about, framing her face like a white/grey halo, Libba came out to greet us.

"Welcome to my Place," she said in a smooth drawl with a voice that capitalized place, "I was just getting ready to feed my chickens, would you kids like to help?" She nodded to the minis.

The kids went with Libba to feed the chickens, and when they were finished she invited us to see her museum. Her museum was a lean-to filled with things she found on the beach. A naked Barbie doll missing a leg, an old buoy, a few shells, sea glass, driftwood, and a special collection of sea glass folks sent her from elsewhere, including my hometown, back at Lake Erie.

We wandered around Libba's Place, some of us enchanted, some of us befuddled. The enchanted person was the one who didn't have emotional baggage to this strange beach creature the way she did with her own upbringing. I suppose I could add a phony disclaimer how any resemblance to real or imagined characters is coincidence, but that's a crock and we know it. Libba is real. (The kids kept saying she reminded them of the woman in "Because of Winn-Dixie") If you're ever visiting the Outer Banks near the NC/VA border, you need to find out how real. Go visit Libba's Place and say hello.

Aquamarine supposedlyShe told us how she would sometimes row a boat across the sound to the mainland and that was quicker than driving. She showed us flower beds bordered with upside down wine bottles, quickly explaining that a lot of her visitors brought her empty wine bottles. I suspect she was a bit untruthful there, and perhaps they were full when they first arrived at her place. Nonetheless.

She invited us into her gift shop where an eclectic array of her projects awaited for our bidding. Nothing was priced. I'm fairly certain she priced her merchandise based on what she needed for that particular day. My minis got small bracelets for a dollar. I was intrigued by the piece shown in the photo, a big blue glass chunk on a charm. She insisted it was the gemstone aquamarine. It's irrelevant that I didn't believe her. She gave me enough of a story that morning that I didn't mind her thinking she conned me. I've never checked if the stone is real, I don't think it is at all, but who knows? She also told us that she gives people things and a card if they don't have money and just trusts they will mail her the money when they can.

Her card is still tucked in my wallet and I hope to visit her again another day. I will take a bottle of wine, but it won't be empty. I hope I can convince her to help me empty it.


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