[Alexandra] James and I were lucky enough to visit the old cottage in Turtle Beach many times before getting engaged. Whether it was just the two of us, or a long weekend with friends, we always enjoyed strolling the beach, playing golf, and maybe a few too many martinis!
Thanksgiving here has always been big. It’s been a reunion for the whole family on the island. Kathy cooks for days, and Lanier and I are sous chefs. As the family expands, we are so excited for new traditions!
The day after James and I got engaged we flew straight to Kiawah. We spent five days here with all of our best friends. We took engagement pictures at the new house before it was done. It was a monumental time in our lives.
[Lanier] Alexandra and I started a tradition two years ago—a midnight swim. Lizzy will be a part of it next year. At midnight we all go out to the beach as a family, and just the girls run in and out of the water. It’s cold. We bring a bottle of Champagne and run in and out. It isn’t the smartest thing, but it’s so fun. I think it will always be something that all the girls do together.
We stay up late, play music too loud, and joke around a lot. We are very close knit but love having friends join in the fun. All my friends love Brooks gatherings as we do. We all have so much going on in our lives with marriages and babies, getting together on the Island is becoming even more special.
[Kathy] When we started coming here, it was the simplicity of it, the easiness of it. The marshes! The fact that there were oak trees on the beach was fascinating to me. We used to rent a boat and go dolphin watching. It was the first time we’d ever seen the dolphins feeding—running the fish up the beaches. It was amazing.
I remember my first glimpse of the island as you take the corner and cross the Kiawah River. The stunning green and purple grasses in the marshes, the smell of salt, the seabirds working the river. It always makes me catch my breath, no matter how many times I take that turn. And I always thank my lucky stars that I get to live in paradise.
[Jimmy] Kathy’s Thanksgivings on Kiawah have become legendary. She is a terrific cook and none of the kids will allow her to change a thing. Her dirty rice might be the best on the planet, and her giblet gravy matches perfectly with Lanier’s amazing mashed potatoes. The boys, including me, are pretty much just eaters and cleaners.
Going from the beach to the river side of the island has been transformative. I love running on the beach but nothing beats the river sunsets that seem to change every night and with every season. The exposed oyster beds at low tide are truly stunning.
[Michael] Thanksgiving dinner is always around two o’clock. Beau always sets the table, that’s his thing. Then we eat until we want to die!
If after that, for some reason, somehow, we’re still hungry, uncle Jimmy makes my favorite thing in the entire world: a turkey and butter sandwich. It is delicious. Chunks of butter—it has to be hard butter—salt, pepper, and white meat.
This year we got really big into Rummikub. There’s always some game. Bananagrams is a big one. People revive, everyone rallies, we drink beer, and we play games.
Friday is a sign that Aunt Kathy can never just sit still. That’s my take on it. The hectic nature of Thanksgiving starts all over on Friday morning. I’m usually in the market again, picking up stuff, or I’m making cocktail sauce or something. This year I am on Champagne duty.
I enjoy the oysters. I would love it if there were crawfish too! Being from Louisiana, you know.
[Beau] Thanksgiving is more important in our family than Christmas. It’s when we all get to be together.
My dad is from Baltimore, and my mom and siblings are from New Orleans, and I was born in Houston—so we all have different hometowns. So Kiawah is the place that is home for all of us. I have this memory of the best vacation when I was a kid. I was with all of my cousins, riding bikes and swimming in the ocean. I was in my twenties before I realized that it was here! We’ve been coming here a long time.
My favorite part of Thanksgiving is my mom’s dirty rice. She’s from New Orleans, and she has to make it. It’s the best.
[Kathy] On Thursday everybody cleans up together. We all love football, so all the TVs are on. It’s what I call controlled chaos. We know what the plan is. We don’t have to stick to it—we just stick around it. People start getting hungry again, and we throw leftovers on the island and go for it.
We wake up on Friday, and everyone takes a walk or goes for a swim. People start coming over around ten thirty or eleven. We bring out the Champagne and the oysters. And now that we have in-laws, they’ve been coming too. Next year we’ll have three sets of in-laws: Alexandra’s family, the Dahls, and Luke’s family, the Pigges. And then Lizzy and Beau are getting married, and that will add the Stegmans.
And the great thing is, when it gets way out of control—when we’re playing games and everyone is yelling at each other—I just go upstairs and go to bed! Every once in a while, I’ll get a clean-up fairy. When I tell you it looked like a bomb went off…it was scary. I was in a plastic suit the next morning ready to clean up. Luke and Lanier had cleaned the whole kitchen! She had no choice! He’s a good influence. I was like, I LOVE YOU LUKE!
[Kathy] Glen Gardner was the first person I hired when we decided to build on the river lot. It was important that the interiors flowed seamlessly to the outside, and maybe more important that we bring the outside scene back into the house. He understood my love for Louisiana camellias and gardenias and worked them into the river landscape as if they had always been there.
Lanier gets married December 2 at the house! We’re not going to have to decorate much. Glen is helping me set up, refine, and embellish her wedding, which will take place outside. I will let the river and the trees speak for themselves—that’s decoration enough.
[Lanier] It looks like we’re going to do the oyster roast every year. This is the first time we’ve had the space to do it!
It’s a gathering that wouldn’t occur otherwise. I’ve never seen my dad so happy. With the new house and starting a new tradition. Now we have something that will continue to bring us all together.
[Jimmy] Having a dock and boats now has changed our island perspective. We love dolphin watching and exploring all the creeks and rivers and boating to Charleston. It has added so much to a place we already loved.
I have repeated many times that I just never get bored with Kiawah. It is constantly presenting us with new and different experiences of beauty, fun, family time, and time with friends.
[Alexandra] Every viewpoint on Kiawah is beautiful. It changes with every season. We can always rely on vibrant shades of orange and pink during sunset from our dock. My favorite is fall on the golf course, with that soft lavender hue. I remember when they were just building the house, when we came out and it was sticks and foundation—just looking out and imagining what it was going to be like coming here with family. It’s breathtaking, really.
I grew up as a beach baby, so I love the fact that we will bring the baby here and teach him to love the ocean, enjoy boat rides on the river, and to play golf and tennis.
[Michael] I think the best part is when the day starts winding down and you can watch the colors change. You’re eating these oysters that you’re shucking yourself, at this beautiful house in this beautiful place, and then all of the colors change! I have always appreciated that part.
That’s one of the many things about Kiawah that’s so shockingly noticeable, how beautiful it is whether it’s the middle of the day or middle of the night. It’s like another world almost.
You have to force yourself to stop and breathe, and everybody does it. Somehow Aunt Kathy gets you to do that.
[Beau] I’m a geologist, so I really appreciate the marshes, everything that coexists in the pluff mud, the oyster beds, the layers of the island.
The house is astounding. I love the spacious rooms. My favorite part is the boardwalk over the wetland. That part of the land is so unique.
The house was really the beginning of a new stage in all our lives. We are all getting married! I am so glad that my parents will get to enjoy this. Lizzy and I will bring our kids here, and it will be home for them too. Lizzy had only been to the area one time and decided that’s where she wanted to get married.