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Editor’s note: During his recent visit over New Year’s Day, Michael Lydick got his wish (see below) and gave back to the Ocracoke community when, after learning that islander Pat Garber’s refrigerator had broken, he gave her a small refrigerator he was going to discard.
Text and photos by Michael Lydick
It’s a Tuesday. I’m on Ocracoke Island, renovating an old, green house on Cabana Drive.
The lawyers are gone. The inspectors and appraisers left on the Hatteras ferry.
The water company guy turned his wrench and the once-winterized, sun-faded edifice has blood in her vein-pipes again.
“You should be all good!” he shouts from the fence.
I turn the sink on and off, amazed–mocking my needlessly large supply of bottled agua in the corner on the worn hardwood floors. Another small victory.
This was once a whispered dream. A “Wouldn’t it be amazing if we had a house here?” pondering–years of staring at the ceiling wide-eyed and wondering as the kids slept in the bunk-beds of countless island rentals.
And now I’m holding a hacksaw.
John at the hardware store saw me eyeing one and asked if I was going to be using it a lot, or just once. (He’s seen me in here frequently).
“Here, take this,” he said. “Bring it back when you’re done,” and pulls the “store saw” out from behind the counter. This doesn’t happen at any Home Depot I’ve ever been to. No one’s ever said, “Just bring it back” to me at Lowes.
No one like John works at those places. I’m certain he’s a distant cousin of Mr. Rogers as he eases the sharp corners of my renovation days. It stings less when I need another can of paint when John sells it to me. I walk out the store through the crowd out front and hop back on the bike to home.
There are two Ocracokes, I’m learning–renters and owners. Someone here told me once how to tell the difference: “Renters are tan, and owners are pale: They’re always inside working on something.”
I glance at my paint-covered arms and feel a little pastier.
I think on how I’ve been asked 1,000 times if we are “living here,” or “renting.” A or B?
“Both,” I say.
I want to tell people, “Live here,” but there are kids and schools and banks who love the checks I send them. So, I am, for now, a “non-resident-owner.” Still dreaming, but with one sandy foot in the door.
Ms. Betty strolls by the driveway and volunteers her husband Bill’s chainsaw.
“He’s an engineer like you,” she notes, implying the depth of Bill’s tool stash if I need something.
People don’t bring pies when you move here. You get invaluable advice and resources and community, instead.
“I’m the yellow house around the corner on stilts,” Betty calls out as she continues her brisk morning walk. I quickly note the location on my phone before I forget.
I love this house. I want people to come here and love this place.
I want to learn everyone’s name who lives here and be someone who offers up my chainsaw when I see their boxes in the street someday.
It’s unnerving and paradoxical right now, though, this total “bridgeless” reliance.
But with each unpacked box and painted wall I wonder if that isn’t exactly why we’re here.
Michael Lydick and his family, new homeowners on Ocracoke, live mostly in Winston-Salem.