It's not the posh, grand type of beach house people are building these days. We have tile and stone, not granite and marble, and it's not equipped with the latest in electronics. There's no air conditioning, and we still do our dishes by hand and hang laundry to dry in the Caribbean breeze. When Aloe House was built, it was difficult and expensive to get the materials you wanted. "What's available" was our go-to choice for decor and material decisions. We have slowly upgraded things over the years (beds replaced futons, tile on the stairs), but it's still more beach house than villa.
Even as a beach house, it's far from perfect. The island climate is hard on any structure, so it needs constant maintenance. Plumbing fixtures have to be replaced, as do the original baseboards. Water seeps in on one side of the house in a heavy rain.
I love it anyway. It is A Place. Other vacation homes could be mistaken for motels, all very tasteful but displaying no particular taste. This one says that people live here and are happy here. It is a part of its environment and its neighborhood. Kids come by to swing in the hammock and hope to be offered cookies or popcorn. Friends stop by, hang out, pass on information. Neighbors know they can take water when they need it or store something large in our garage.
Sure, there are times when I think Aloe House is too "open." We are always replacing plastic spigots that have been turned too vigorously, the plants we like are mysteriously replaced with others, and I can't seem to maintain a supply of laundry or dish detergent. But in the long run, what are some spigots and supplies compared to a place that people find comfortable and happy?
Aloe House connects us to this island and informs both us and others of who we are. It is where I made the transition, long in coming, from nonfiction to fiction. It is where Tom's creative side blooms. This Thanksgiving on North Caicos, we have many things to be thankful for. But Number One this year is this place, this living home.