Ad Spot

May 8, 2021

Woodson Harvey column: Creating memories — and our families

By Kristy Woodson Harvey
For the Salisbury Post

Growing up, the last week in July was the week I wished would never end. Because that was the week my grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles and cousins loaded up and headed toward the coast. We spent our days with toes in the sand and our nights playing Scrabble and spades, eventually falling asleep by the light of the moon, the crashing waves a lullaby.

This annual trip began well before I was born and lasted until I was 32, until the first year my grandfather — by then, well over 90 — could no longer make the five-hour trek. It was a tradition that made memories and built lives — because our grandparents didn’t just give us the gift of a beach vacation.

They gave us a family. A real, true, honest-to-God unit of 25, give or take, who don’t just see each other and make small talk at Christmas. My cousins and I remember the year we bought hermit crabs, the year we got horrible mosquito bites and the year we learned to skim board. The year Raymond got the very first bright yellow DiscMan and taught me the lyrics to Green Day’s “When I Come Around.” The year Catherine talked her way out of that speeding ticket — two weeks after she got her license. The year Grandmommy nearly took the Scrabble Champion title from Sidney and me by approving Thomas and Rutledge’s use of the word “spinecones.” They are little, nothing moments. But they are also everything.

When I was young, I couldn’t have put into words that what I loved so much about those weeks was how indelibly they connected me to the people closest to me. It is only in retrospect that I can see how those trips shaped me, how they made me who I am at the very center of myself. I can walk out into a world that can be harsh because at the very heart of it I know there are people I belong to.

I don’t know if Grandmommy and Grandaddy knew that those nights we spent around a wide-plank, roughhewn dining table eating ham and string beans we had snapped ourselves would turn us into lifelong friends. I don’t know if they realized that visits to the local ice cream shop and hunting for ghost crabs with flashlights, the moon painting bright and white on the water, would meld us into a strong and unbreakable unit. But they did. They have.

I don’t see my extended family every day, don’t talk to all of them as much as I should. But I carry them in my cells, in the very marrow of who I am, not just because we share DNA but because we share stories. I bring what growing up in a family like mine meant to me onto every page I write. It is the common theme, the firm foundation of not only my books but also of myself.

I know that not every person gets to have a family like mine. I know how incredibly blessed I am by the connections I have. And, this year, in my new-this-week book, “Under the Southern Sky,” I got to explore a little more fully what it means to be a family, what it means to have ties that bind and bonds that can never ever be broken.

In my latest novel, I plunge my characters into the fictional town of Cape Carolina, where the water is clear and the secrets run deep. It’s a story about motherhood in every shape that takes, but it’s also a story about sticking close to the family you already have, and about supporting those we love, even when we don’t entirely understand them. And maybe that’s what I learned from those idyllic summer trips: We don’t always have to understand each other to love each other.

But those summers taught me something else, too: Closeness and fierce loyalty are things you choose, not things you’re given. And they can be bestowed on the kind of friends who become like family. We can build our own family by being the kind of person who sticks by the ones they love no matter what — and by finding friends who will do the same.

I have been blessed by that kind of family too, the kind we don’t have to be born into, but the kind we choose every day, all day, over and over again. The childhood friends who I know I can call in the middle of the night — and whose 2 a.m. calls I always answer. The town I grew up in that always is, always was there, cheering me on. The man I chose to spend my life with, who I knelt with in front of a priest and prayed that we would always be this happy. The people from all ages, all places and all stages that we have picked to go through life with, the good and bad, the ups and downs. And, most of all, biggest of all, the little boy I carried who bears the name he shares with his father, grandfather and great-grandfather.

Because family isn’t just one thing. It isn’t only the cousins you played hide-and-seek with or the grandmother who patiently attempted to teach you to make her famous caramel icing. It isn’t only the parents who went to every tennis match and called out spelling words. It can be the neighbor or stray kitten or elderly dog, teenager or baby or Facebook friend who we help out when it matters, who becomes a part of our heart little by little or all at once. Because family — with all its beauty and all its flaws — is something that we all get to create for ourselves. The people who help us face our toughest life decisions. The ones who bring us joy. The ones who carry our biggest secrets as if they were their own.

Obstacle by obstacle, thread by thread, memory by memory, we begin to weave the fabric of our family, however we find it. My characters in “Under the Southern Sky” begin to realize something that I learned during all those summers by the shore, something I deeply hope we all discover at some point: Family — the one you’re born into and the one that you create — is always closer than you think.

Kristy Woodson Harvey is a Salisbury native and the USA Today bestselling author of seven novels. Signed copies of her new release, “Under the Southern Sky,” are available from South Main Book Company.

About Post Lifestyles

Visit us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SalPostLifestyle/ and Twitter @postlifestlyes for more content

email author More by Post

Comments

Business

Weak jobs report spurs questions about big fed spending

News

Judge limits footage that family can see of deputy shooting in Elizabeth City

Sports

Woodland, two others share lead; Mickelson plays much worse but will still be around for weekend at Quail Hollow

Business

Former NHL player to open mobster themed bar in Raleigh

Nation/World

California population declines for first time

News

GOP leaders differ on bottom line for state spending

News

Police: Man killed in shootout with officers in Winston-Salem

Crime

Man charged after thieves rob would-be gun buyers of wallets, shoes

Crime

Blotter: Four added to sheriff’s most wanted list

High School

High school football: Some anxious moments, but Hornets win state title

Local

Photos: Salisbury High Hornets win big in 2AA championship game

Local

County manager outlines projections for the upcoming fiscal year budget, suggests uses for stimulus money

Business

Miami-based Browns Athletic Apparel opens second screen printing location in Salisbury

News

At funeral, fallen Watauga deputies remembered as ‘heroes’

Coronavirus

COVID-19 cluster identified at Granite Quarry Elementary

Coronavirus

More than half of North Carolinians have now taken at least one vaccine shot

Local

City hopes to cover expenses in 2021-22 budget with surplus revenue generated this year

Local

Fallen tree proves to be a blessing for local nonprofit Happy Roots

Local

Quotes of the week

Coronavirus

Health department drops quarantine time from 14 to 10 days

Crime

Blotter: More than $100,000 in property reported stolen from Old Beatty Ford Road site

Local

City fights invasive beetles by injecting trees with insecticide

Local

City names downtown recipients for federal Parks Service grant

China Grove

China Grove Town Council weighs 2021-22 budget priorities, supports buying body cameras