Back Together

When our daughters Sarah and Fanny were young, we used to go to Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina for summer vacation.

We would pile the girls into the red Volvo wagon along with way too many things we didn’t need including pots, pans and pillows. Even our Persian cats came along for the two-week holiday. 

The trip was filled with rituals. There was the morning special like going to Causeway Café for a ridiculously big breakfast of pancakes, waffles, eggs and more. We would wait and wait and wait until they called our name and come running in as if we hadn’t eaten in six years. Usually someone from our party was next door in Redix the local general store checking out the latest bathing suits. Causeway Cafe was the first place I ever had Texas Pete hot sauce on eggs. I didn’t realize it was possible for two little girls to eat so much bacon in one sitting.

Another food related summer event was the classic roast chicken dinner that we would eat while sitting on the Duneridge apartment outdoor porch overlooking the ocean. I’d leave the beach early in the afternoon to prepare the feast. I’d put on an opera to cook by like Pagliacci or Rigoletto and prepare the feast. The meal included rosemary garlic kissed chicken atop sweet carrots and crunchy celery, salt and pepper roasted steak fries and a Madeira mushroom sauce reduced from all the drippings. An ample salad filled with avocados and other fresh vegetables was dressed with classic vinaigrette to fill out the dinner. We would gather on the porch as I brought each platter out to my hungry family. There was something about that meal and being together by the ocean that seemed to connect us forever as we listened to the Jim Chappell’s music that was both ethereal and calming to the soul. The wind, the surf, the music – brought calm and comfort to us all. I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that both girls now live so close to the ocean- albeit the Pacific.

But no ritual has endured like the back to back photo.

I’m not sure what inspired me to take the first picture but I am certain it connects back to my own childhood at Phillips Beach in Deal, New Jersey where my family always enjoyed the summer. During our vacation each August, I would announce the day before we were leaving that our family photos would take place on the wooden walkway leading from the pool to the ocean at 5 p.m. The light was getting low and perfect for pictures. The photo of the girls back to back was a way of getting these beautiful young girls…now young woman in frame and close together. I don’t think it was any type of subliminal message but I wonder if my true desire was to capture them supporting each other.

How I treasure these photos and those moments.

Today the girls live 3,000 miles apart as Sarah lives on Oahu in Hawaii and Fanny recently moved to West Hollywood. Yet, when Fanny needed her sister to help her find her way in LA, Sarah immediately volunteered to help. She flew in a for a few days over Labor Day weekend to help Fanny search for a place to live and more importantly to help underscore that she had her back. Fanny has always been determined to get to Hollywood but I know that having her sister with her made a huge difference in starting her life on the left coast. It was so satisfying seeing Sarah reach out so unselfishly to help her sister to support her on this new journey.

It’s funny how we continue to take this same back-to-back photo when we are together in the summer. Now it’s Hawaii not Wrightsville Beach but wherever the setting, we all know that at the end of the vacation, we will have a designated late afternoon for photos. It’s a ritual I love and one that I hope will never end.

In the future these pictures will expand as the girls start their own families and I need a wider lens to get everyone in the picture. I cherish how our daughter’s support each other. Ra El recently traveled to LA to help Fanny stock her new apartment and continues to help from Beyond. That would be Bed, Bath and Beyond in Raleigh via UPS. There is something sweet about the sibling support and it is a two-way street. Both Sarah and Fanny assisting each other and provide both physical and emotional help with unconditional and non-judgmental love.

I an thrilled that everyone puts up with my family photo ritual.

So go ahead and get close together- that’s right- back to back. Now turn your heads toward me. Take a deep breathe and exhale. Fanny, stop making faces. Ready. Say cheese or if you insist Fanny you can say St. Andre or Gruyere.

Snap. Back together.

VIDEO LINKS: Below are links to three Slater/Remez family vacation videos from 2010.

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