Throwing Some Shade: the art of coming together

The temperature was in the 90s when I showed up at Mount Pleasant’s Memorial Waterfront Park. I don’t frequent this area; truth is, I don’t frequent much outside of our little farm.

This is on purpose. Driving when your eyesight is on the decline, in traffic that you’re not used to, with two children in tow, creates a state of the internal shakes – for me.

But this day my girl had a checkup at the pediatrician and there was no way out of the hustle of the road. So we left early, almost two hours early, and needed to play some minutes away. Otherwise there would be whining, and the only thing worse than fear, is loathing one’s life decisions.

So I sought out some recreation.

Now if you’ve heard the news, I live in the most beautiful city in the world, and this bit of reportage is true. Memorial Waterfront Park is situated on the cross point of two rivers – the Wando and Cooper. From the fishing pier, there are panoramic views: to the east, the Atlantic Ocean, the south, Downtown Charleston, and to the west, Daniel Island.

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Ravenel Bridge, Charleston, SC

But the hidden treasure of this park is located under the northern arch of the Ravenel Bridge. It’s a double-sized portion of fun. The light blue and white steel structure hosts tube slides, moving bridges, slide-down poles, and a ropes course.

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Memorial Waterfront Park, Mount Pleasant, SC

The kids disappeared as we stepped through the gate.

There were several benches and tables in the shade and all were taken by approximately one adult. The two benches in the sun were open, but locals know if you want to make it through the day and avoid heat stroke, you stay away from these hot spots.

So as I gazed out and considered my options, I bolstered up my confidence, and put myself out there like I sometimes do. I asked a woman with a cute barrette in her hair if she’d be willing to share her shade.

Like an angel, she said yes.

Over the next hour, I’d learn several important things about my new friend. Her boys had come from a writing camp, they lived two hours away, and this mother drove daily to take them to this camp. This bit of information made me think we could be friends, and I told her if I knew her better, I’d offer her our house to ease the discomfort of her daily drive. She said the miles were`no matter to her.

She makes the best of things, this would sink in the next time we met.

There’s magic in the water here. Tides rise 6-8 feet daily. Meaning one hour my house is on the marsh, and another, on the water. It means even more for our beaches. Each day as the tide trickles out, pools of water form between sand banks created by wind swirls.

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Tidal Pools, Isle of Palms Beach

Tidal pools of cool water turn warm in the radiance of our generous sun, and you know the commercials where a woman is lying in the shallows of the Caribbean with a glamorous beach hat, well that was me and my new friend when we met at Isle of Palms beach (only we didn’t have the big hats and our bodies look real).

It was a dream.

While our four children chased crabs, we submerged our bodies in the hot tub like pools, the warmth healing our child-bearing and rearing backs, the strain and the pull of our Dimples of Venus padded by the soft sand. We talked of our children and husbands and careers. She’s a nurse and a university professor. But mostly what we did was listen to the whisper of the wind. It was a strong breeze off the coast.

Our day in paradise was full on with a spa treatment by our children massaging our shoulders and legs with mud. We walked away exfoliated, hungry, and no one wanted it to end, so I invited them to dinner at our favorite pizza joint.

My house was on the way, so we stopped to shower and change. My friend’s boys, who help their grandpa with his chickens and garden, wanted to see our coop and crops, so we took a tour of our growing farm.

As I told my friend the story of my producing, but not flourishing garden, she told me of her father’s robust yield. I asked her how her father knew so much, how they had such a great harvest. She said, “isn’t it obvious, my family has been farming one thing or another for centuries.”

My new friends are the descendants of slaves and sharecroppers.

I didn’t want to assume, I told her, explaining that I’d known several people who were first or second generation immigrants from the Caribbean or from African nations, and this wasn’t their story. She understood.

As we ate together that night, my new friend joked with the waiter, sipped a glass of wine, and talked with me about politics and education. I discovered her freedom. Her mind is not on obstacles, but on opportunities. And she’s not afraid to speak of her history, her challenges, and the hardships her family has faced. I reckon her personality type is two letters off from mine – ENTJ. I’m an INFJ.

A round of hugs ended our first get together and plans for our next visit started within the week. We’re going to them this time. The boys want to teach us how to catch crabs and eat them, which means stepping in stinky pluff mud (gross), and I’m hoping to see the grandparents’ garden and learn a few things.

It’s all about learning.

My new friend has already taught me to throw people some shade. Shade can be literal or it can be any characteristic you have that someone else doesn’t have, like agency. My friend is good with people. She owns her space. While we were together, and without knowing it, she was teaching me and lending me her strengths.

I think my shade is empathy. I feel others pain. I feel her pain. I worry about her boys, these fine young men, of great intelligence, stature, and personality, and how they will be treated when they come of age and are on their own road hustles. If they take an illegal u-turn (by accident, of course) as I’ve done so many times, will they be pulled, searched, or humiliated. Will they be suspect because of their skin color?

It’s a very real thing, the struggle my friends have, and I intend to be there for them. To cast some shade when the sun bears down too harshly. It’s the least I can do to say thank you.

What’s your shade? How can you cover others?

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