Last night I woke up thinking about you. This happens to me on a disturbingly regular basis. One moment I’m minding my own business sleeping, say, as happened to me last night or doing something I need to focus on like work or laundry or deciding between 45 or 60 watt light bulbs at Home Depot and suddenly, from nowhere, here you come.
You and I have separated, amicably of course, so we no longer spend every waking moment together as we used to. Many years ago I made a youthful decision that this was best because it seemed that there were others that had so much more to offer than you did; you graciously accepted my decision. You were holding me back, you and your small town ways. It wasn’t that you weren’t good for me but Destiny was calling to me, telling me that if I was going to accomplish anything in life I needed to be somewhere else. Now I know that Destiny cannot always be trusted and may have lied just a little.
And now, many years later and many miles away, I find myself suddenly and inexplicably staring at the ceiling in the middle of the night or hesitating in Aisle 14, caught up in an unbidden memory of you. A feeling of security. The scent of pluff mud. The sound of cicadas on a muggy summer evening. I’m sure that little ache in my chest is probably just a result of the dark chocolate salted caramel mousse I finished off my Olive Garden dinner with.
Now that I’m older and wiser I see that my youthful decision to seek broader horizons was made with an equally youthful unawareness of future consequences. I could not foresee that one small decision to live far away from you for a brief time would lead to a lifetime of living far away from you. As someone once said, “It’s best that we can’t see the future. We probably wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning”.
I hope, though, that you don’t think that just because I moved along in my journey that I’m still not madly in love with you. Au contraire. There’s so much of you that is engrained in me, runs in my blood, fills my thoughts. How could I be anything but totally enamored? I hope you recognize that my love for you is displayed in sharing you with my children, telling stories about you, preserving you in pictures, ensuring that we have Frogmore Stew on special occasions.
Your simple ways taught me that the real pleasures in life are sitting on a swing with a loved one, watching the tide come in or the sun set. Your sense of history and place instructed me in the importance of heritage and remembering that who we are is made up of everything and everyone that came before us. Your lively and sometimes noisy military activities taught me patriotism and an appreciation for those who fight to protect our freedoms.
A walk down a dusty dirt road in the evening under arching trees, a salty breeze from the creek, a choking and coughing spell from a lung full of beach water, sitting patiently (and sometimes impatiently) on the Woods Memorial Bridge as its span slowly, slowly, turns to open and close….these are the things I love about you.
And there are other things I love about you that are now only memories, my ability to recreate them unfortunately impossible: wandering in the bookshelves of the little library on Craven Street, waving at Santa Claus during the Christmas Parade, shopping for a birthday present with my grandmother at Edwards on Bay Street.
There are many who have discovered how easy it is to love you. They come from all over, from big cities and small towns, from snowy climes and western reaches. For most it was love at first sight so they stayed to sit and stare at you, stars in their eyes, their hearts bursting with puppy love. Others only come to visit but their infatuation is no less evident or compelling.
I don’t doubt their passion for you, although sometimes I’m afraid that they might love you to death. I only know that mine is a different endearment, one born from our shared experiences: the times when I was frustrated with you for being so provincial, the times when I was fearful for you as I watched a hurricane churning off the coast, the times when my 14 year old teenage self was so bored I thought I would die, the times when you provided a lovely sea breeze and a pelican gliding across the water to add to the magic of a date that ended with a walk on the waterfront.
So at night when all the tourists have gone to their rooms, the traffic on Carteret Street has subsided, the gift shops on Bay Street have turned their signs, and the dark windows of the boats at the marina signify that everyone has gone to bed, I want you to know that I am awake and thinking of how much I love you.
And I am hoping that you still love me, too.