By Danie Connolly
A funny thing happened on the way to the holidays.
I was settling in to become a southerner. Lord knows I devoured enough Kentucky Fried Chicken that I should’ve had a southern accent by now, but I sensed I had lost my groove.
Even celebrating my wonderful neighbor’s annual Halloween party, I’d taken what was always a fun, crazy night and turned It into a mission. I dressed my husband (BBB) as the Statue of Liberty and I was a pregnant mermaid (thanks to the 10 pounds I gained from popping bonbons in my mouth). But alas, I had lost my giggle – the key to my sense of humor.
Try as I might, something was missing and I was at a loss as to what it was. Earlier that year, I’d been an extra on The Righteous Gemstones – a very funny television show that I
love – but even that didn’t get me excited.
Focusing on the Great American Novel I’d been working on (7 years, but who’s counting?), writers block was facing me at every paragraph. I had nothing – no humorous quips, no hilarious barbs, just the big goose egg! I’m telling you – the tide was out.
About four years earlier, I’d created a fundraiser for charities called “It’s a Nutty Christmas.” During the pandemic, it was an entertainment exhibit. It became a glorified outdoor scavenger hunt with families huddled together finding a nugget of The Holidays amid masks and quarantines. My artistic friends acquiesced to my constant begging, creating the visions of nutcrackers that danced in their heads. In a flurry of activity, they did not disappoint. We hung them all over Kennebunk and Kennebunkport and raised a lot of money for charity. It felt good to make a significant difference to the families who’d lost their income. And, it was a lot of fun.
When my husband and I moved to South Carolina, I set up shop again that Christmas. Nothing too spectacular – we were still feeling our way around the area’s holiday season. The following year – last year – I encouraged artists from the Lowcountry to join in the insanity and we announced the arrival of “It’s a Nutty Christmas” in Beaufort County.
But this year, something happened. I slowed down and smelled the gardenias! The artists that I’d persuaded to paint their version of nutcrackers stopped me in my tracks!
I took a deep breath and discovered the South’s fabulous sense of humor. It had been cajoling me with funny moments but this time I actually got it!
The first glimpse was Donna Raines and her fabulous King of Tides. Pat Conroy would have loved him! She created an oysterman that is nothing short of
magnificent. He’s adorned with seaweed and fish and ocean water drops instead of snowflakes. He is regal. He is outrageous. And, he is proudly standing guard in front of I. Pinckney Simmons Gallery on Bay Street, ushering art lovers in and up the few steps to some of the most beautifully painted canvases you’ll ever see. The mother and daughter team there are extremely welcoming and love to share their gorgeous paintings.
At Berkshire Hathaway, a few doors down, John Gregor‘s Nutcracker is guarding the real estate office. With a name like Art Magic, he’d be happy to sell you a mansion or two! Be sure to study all the incredibly smart, hilarious details that John painted in this masterpiece. Sure, it’s a painting of a nutcracker, but that nutcracker is painting his own left leg! The tongue is clenched between the teeth as he holds paint brushes while frantically painting his self-portrait in front of the bridge a few yards away over untroubled waters. You’ll discover so many clever touches you’ll lose track. Stop in and say hello (there’s always a bowl of candy).
If you need a belly laugh, a few doors up and across the street, is Karen Magill‘s barbecue guy. He’s holding court at Q on Bay. Her nutcracker is grilling ribs and
fending off begging dogs while someone is reaching for illegal seconds in her hilarious masterpiece, and the closer you look, the more you discover more chuckles to be had! Clearly I’ve been napping during the south’s splendid humorous moments! And the actual flavors? Delicious!
You’ll need to take a stroll down Carteret Street to see what I mean when you arrive at The Chocolate Tree – one of Beaufort’s oldest and favorite businesses. The owner’s eyes lit up when I mentioned an alligator. I painted that gentleman gator with New Orleans in mind, but they were thinking they sell more chocolate alligator bars than they do Easter eggs, so the gator had to spend the holidays with them! You must pop in to see, purchase or at least sniff, the sweet chocolate and all the goodies they create there!
I know I’ve lost my mind, but I finally found my sense of humor. When you’re in Beaufort, please enter the stores and thank all the businesses that have adopted these outrageous nutcrackers that will be guarding them until New Year’s. The charity this year supports CAPA (Child Abuse Prevention Association), which does a tremendous job for those in need. Ideally, the stores “rent” these nutcrackers for $100, and they all have information about CAPA’s services on hand. This is indeed a caring community ready to help its neighbors. It’s also a fun place for you and your family and friends to explore – the wonderful stores, restaurants and historic homes. You’ll be glad you did!
I hope I see you there. I’ll be the one with the foolish grin after finding my goofball humor again. I’m happy to be alive and savoring all the joys of South Carolina, but now I’ve got to finish my last chapter of an overdue book and make my editor happy.
Merry Everything, y’all!