I was a teenage waitress in Oriental, at my mom’s M & M’s Cafe, and a graduate of Pamlico County High School.
During that time, I remember lying in bed, listening to the music on the Marina deck, wishing for the day I would be old enough to join the beach music bands and dancing. This was the early 90s. The village was alive. A destination.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found me. I became a photographer. 9/11 happened; I became a war photographer. For ten years I lived mostly in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Everyplace was compared to our tiny village. In Iraq I found people who had the pleasantries of the south. In Arabic they use words similar to “honey” or “sweetie” to great people they barely know.
In Afghanistan everyone lives a village life. Family is important. I could see the poverty of Pamlico County; the hard work of farmers.
Now I work mostly for The New York Times and National Geographic, most of the time I live from a suitcase.
Vacation for some people means traveling. For me, it means the slow, beautiful, comfortable streets of Oriental. I come home to see my mom (Marsha Shirk) and sister (Rebecca Rice), I don’t take photos of the beautiful sunsets. Or the unique fish house or the harbor. I look and breathe-in the wind along the water or the gritty shrimp smell of the Marina.
I enjoy slow dog walks with my mom; kayaking through the quiet creeks with my dad. My dog, Ramadi (rescued from Iraq) knows his well-worn path. We walk past the Ol’ Theater to the church center of the village. Through the quiet pine-scented streets near the park, then our tiny beach and then the waterfront where everyone stops to reflect, finish lunch or a phone call.
Ramadi delicately trots on the pier which smells faintly of successful fishing. The pier, now cement, the most recent attempt to withstand taunting hurricanes.
We slowly pass the now-famous Bean cafe across from the Marina which, unlike the days of my childhood, is now so quiet. (I can’t help but think….I’m old enough now. I wish there was more music.)
Our walk continues, past the restaurant my mom once owned, around the corner through the parking lot that I remember as dirt, covered with canopy-like trees. Here, 20 years ago, the Trawl Door Restaurant was marked as a treasure-like destination on the east coast.
Then, under that monumental bridge, we continue home. That bridge. You can see the whole county up there.
Then the final steps to our dead-end road. My mom’s house where the Live Oaks seem to wrap their long branches around us. Keeping us home.
This article comes to you courtesy of Andrea Bruce. Through documentary photography, Andrea brings attention to people living in the aftermath of war. She is a co-owner and member of the photo agency NOOR. An accomplished professional, Andrea’s latest project, “Our Democracy” was launched in Pamlico County. Follow Andrea’s work on Instagram @andreabruce or Tweet to her @abruce_noor.