A holiday dinner served with slice of Lowcountry life

info@islandpacket.comNovember 28, 2011 

It's the Sunday after Thanksgiving and all is good in my world.

My daughter Camden and her husband Andrew have just left, heading back to Charlottesville, Va., and my former wife Allison and her sister Gail also just took off, heading back to Tampa. I know what you are thinking -- isn't Collins married to Karen? The answer is yes, but I am a huge believer in the saying, "Can't we all just get along?"

So with that said, I plopped down at my computer to write this column, but with all guests here, I wasn't able to go fishing and nearly panicked when I realized I didn't have anything to write about. About two coffees later, it hit me. Why don't I write about how my guests viewed the Lowcountry during their time here? It isn't fishing or hunting, but it just might make a good story.

My daughter did her undergraduate studies at the University of Florida, then went off to Harvard Dental School and back to Florida, where she graduated from their orthodontics program and met her husband to be,. Off they went to Charlottesville, where Andrew is finishing up graduate school to be an architect. Luckily, Camden landed a great job with a very successful orthodontist there, but deep down I was sad because all along I wanted the two of them to settle down right here in the Lowcountry.

This wish had a lot to do with my entertainment plans for my guests.

When everyone arrived the day before turkey day, I pulled out all the stops. I set out crab traps off the dock, rustled up a bushel of oysters, a few dozen clams and thawed out a few pounds of shrimp that I had netted a couple of weeks ago. My plan was simple: Give them a Lowcountry-style Thanksgiving from start to finish and maybe, just maybe, it would be such a wonderful memory that one day, before long, my daughter would come back to this part of the country.

Thanksgiving Day was, well ... Thanksgiving Day. It was pretty traditional with turkey, collard greens, homemade stuffing, pumpkin pie and all the fixins. We ate until we couldn't take in another bite. We sat around like speechless slugs, but after a good night's sleep, it was time for me to do my thing. "Let's drive over to Hunting Island State Park," I suggested.

My plan was coming together.

If you have never been to Hunting Island, the drive there is magical. Sweetgrass basketmakers' stands, vegetable stands, shrimp stands and barrels full of sugar cane keep your eyes darting from wide expanses of marsh to this and that along the entire route. Finally arriving at the state park, I had forgotten just how beautiful it was. Palmetto thickets, sand dunes, and the striking black and white lighthouse took me back to my early days on Hilton Head Island. The woods were just like these back in the day before developers decided manicured woods were the way to go. We all walked the beach for some time, and it was, quite simply, glorious. It was the perfect day, and to make it even more memorable, we came back through Beaufort, where I showed my architect son-in-law the historic district. I didn't say anything but I knew his wheels were spinning.

On their last night here, I steamed oysters and clams, boiled up some shrimp and crabs as we all sat on my back deck getting down and dirty. It was a butter-dripping-off-your-chin, saltines and cocktail sauce extravaganza. It was then that I had to ask the question. Pulling Andrew aside, I popped the question. "Have you and Camden thought about what part of the country you might want to live and raise a family?"

Then he said it.

"The Lowcountry."

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