“Making the Most of the Moments,” column for April 28, 2015

A week isn’t much, my mother would say, but it’s something.

Long ago, after college, I left the small Southern town where I grew up, to marry and rear three children and live my life in California of all places. (For years, I thought it was all one word, Californiaofallplaces.)
I’ve never regretted that decision. But I’ve often wished somehow I could’ve had both _ that I had not had to choose one place, one life, over the other.

Life is all about choices, isn’t it?

I left the family that raised me and the land that shaped me, but they never completely left me. I carry them within me.

My mother’s family was not much crazier than yours (all families are crazy in their own ways), but it was crazy enough to be interesting. She and her eight sisters married young, divorced often and birthed enough babies to make family gatherings hum like a hornet’s nest.

They’re all gone now _ my parents and grandparents, my mother’s sisters and all their husbands. Most of them are buried in a family plot on a hill with a lovely view overlooking the BI-LO parking lot. Not that they care about the view.

Their survivors (my sister, brothers, cousins and I) tend to agree it’s the only place they’ve ever been together for long without singing like angels or fighting like alley cats.

I come back to visit when I can, once a year or so. This time, as usual, I’m staying at my sister’s place. She and I will talk and laugh and eat too much, watch bad TV until 2 a.m. and sleep late like teenagers who don’t care what people think. It’s scandalous, but there it is.

Yesterday we took our brother out to eat at his favorite restaurant. Joe is totally blind and insufferably stubborn. To make his way to the booth, he insists on swinging his cane back and forth like a machete, scattering the servers like rats juggling trays of fried chicken and tall glasses of sweet tea.

“Sisters,” he said afterwards, “I love it when we get together, cutting up and talking about stuff back when we were kids.”

Last night my sister’s children, whom I love like my own, brought their children to see me. We sat in my sister’s living room remembering old times, retelling old stories, shoring up the ties that bind us.

I wish you could’ve heard us.

When they left, one by one, they all hugged my neck and told me that they love me. I believe them. We’re family.

This morning, I woke a bit earlier than my sister, got a cup of coffee and slipped out on the porch. I wanted some time to be alone with the land, to see the sunlight play on the mountains, hear the wind come whispering through the woods and breathe the scent I can only describe as the beautiful smell of red dirt.

Dogwoods and azaleas are blooming. Lime green leaves flutter on the trees. Grass is almost too lush to mow. Carpenter bees fill the air, banging on the windows.

Springtime in the Carolinas. I wish you could see it.

Some people feel a kinship to the land where we were born _ to mountains or deserts, rivers or oceans, farmland or city streets _ that is as real and binding and comforting as anything we feel for flesh and blood.

Time flies while I’m here with so much to do, people to see, stories to tell, necks to hug, memories to make. Who knows when I’ll be back?

Families once lived forever, it seemed, within shouting distance of one another. These days most of us are thankful for just a phone call or an email or FaceTime.

But sometimes we get hungry for a physical connection, a real visit, the warmth of a hug, the light in the eyes, the smell of red dirt or the whack of a blind man’s cane.

A week isn’t much, but it’s something. If you make the most of it, it can mean the world.

Comments

  1. David Money says:

    Sharon, I’ve traveled fairly extensively in my 66 years but each week you take me places that exist only in my dreams or distant memories. You’re columns highlight of my Sunday pre-church routine. Twenty five more years worth, please.

    dm

  2. Linda says:

    Now I’m hungering to go back to my hometown!

    I wanted to say I’m re- reading your book “Birdbaths and Paper Cranes” for the “I don’t know how many times” time…. I adore it – and now am loving reading your blog!

    Linda in VA

  3. Mafk Avila says:

    Nailed it!!!!!

  4. Georgiann says:

    Hello Sharon –

    I never read your column that I don’t feel like I’ve had a visit with my own past years of wonderful memories. It’s the most wonderful feeling. Thank you.

  5. I think you have been in my skin! I too moved away, but not across a continent like you did…just a few states separate me from my sister. Mom & Dad have been gone almost 12 years now. All of our aunts & uncles are gone too, leaving those questions we forgot to ask unanswered. That is one reason I’m writing a private blog for my son & daughter, to tell family stories that perhaps they have never heard. My “North Carolina” is “Missouri” & I always feel like I’m home when I go back. I’m so glad I’ve scheduled a week with my sister the first of June. I can’t wait!

  6. Sarah Christopher says:

    Sharon, you really are there at the most beautiful time of the year. Daddy died April 19 and Mother always said Landrum was at its most beautiful when we buried him. What more could he/we have asked for, rather than having him a few more years? Yesterday would have been Jane’s birthday. Go by and pinch her while you’re there 🙂
    Enjoy your visit. We’ll be up there in a couple of weeks.
    S

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