Remember When: The Simple Life

BY Bill Walsh

She has many a memory of growing up at Wrightsville Beach with nary a bad one among them so it is not hard to imagine how pleased Tammy Arlidge must have been when her husband Ken also fell in love with this shore. The couple bought a second home here on Live Oak Drive the tree-lined boulevard that some would argue captures the Wrightsville Beach essence better than any other. The Arlidges and their two young daughters come to soak up that essence as often as they can escape the rat race surrounding their primary home.

That’s a story repeated with regularity up and down the beach strand and across the whole of Harbor Island. Many another family from Raleigh from New York and Washington from Richmond and Charlotte looks forward to escaping to the beach too. The remarkable aspect in the Arlidge tale is that they otherwise reside in…Malibu. It is the full breadth of the country away for one thing. For another it fairly oozes glitz and glamour.

Richard Gere lives there as does Robert Redford. For those of a different generation Courtney Cox is a resident and Britney Spears calls it home. Malibu is a 27-mile strip of Pacific coastline famed for its warm sandy beaches bounded by the ocean Pacific Palisades Santa Monica Mountains and Ventura County and divided by the Pacific Coast Highway.

But it can’t hold a candle to Wrightsville Beach.

“It’s just different here ” Tammy says. “Like my husband says this is the only place where we can find balance in our lives. It is crazy where we live. It is beautiful it’s great but it is definitely a different lifestyle.”

Tammy and the two girls spent most of the summer here and returned for Thanksgiving with Ken flying in as often as his schedule allowed which wasn’t all too often. His impressive collection of movie credits for his work behind the camera on such well-known films as “Full Metal Jacket ” “Babe” and “Wag the Dog” keep him in demand. Most of his time these days is spent shooting and directing commercials. Tammy also worked behind the scenes in the film industry before motherhood with “Forrest Gump” stamped prominently on her résumé.

“I had a girlfriend come out from California ” she recounted over the Thanksgiving holiday “the most California girl you could imagine. She had never been to the South anywhere and was just shell-shocked. She loved it so much she is coming back out next week.”

So much of Wrightsville Beach has remained unchanged in the years she has been away Tammy marvels a stability that perhaps has been made more evident by the fast-paced and competitive Malibu lifestyle. “This house hasn’t changed ” she says of the cottage the couple bought 13 months ago. “Going to Trolley Stop hasn’t changed. I appreciate getting caught by the bridge ” she adds with a laugh which is a change. “I used to hate it. Now I turn the car off and just chill for 10 minutes. Where we choose to eat dinner or what we choose to make hasn’t changed. I just appreciate these things that much more.”

One of the first things her California friend finds marvelous is the food she notes. “They claim they have seafood but it is nothing like it is here. And here everything is homemade. Country ham? They have no idea what country ham is. And everything here is laid back.”

California beaches are not very attractive Ken adds. “If you go up to Oregon there is some beautiful coast but the beaches themselves are not that attractive especially in the Los Angeles area. And the ocean is cold.”

Some things hereabouts of course have changed. Military Cutoff Road development is shocking for one who has been away for some years Tammy says. The traffic is appalling there and on College Road and Market Street — worse she says than in Malibu.

“But Wrightsville Beach is near and dear to my heart ” she is quick to add. “This is where I lived with my dad this is where I learned to water ski; everything was at the beach growing up. He had a full-time home here and a boat and I worked at Wrightsville Marina.”

Her husband’s upbringing half a world away in Christchurch New Zealand where he was born and in Mauritius off the east coast of Madagascar parallels hers on Wrightsville Beach Tammy says: “On the water not really developed little skiff boats playing in sand playing with friends bathing suits all day grilling cooking out ” she ticks off.

“It’s wonderful that there is so much energy [in Malibu] ” she says “but it is exhausting at the same time. When we do come here it takes him a couple of days to chill then it’s just great.”

Wrightsville Beach is the place Tammy and Ken Arlidge agree where their two daughters can experience something of the upbringing they enjoyed. “We want them to experience…the simple things ” Tammy says: “Warm water needing nothing more than a shovel a bucket sand and a bathing suit. That’s what Wrightsville Beach was.”

That’s what Wrightsville Beach is.