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Sharon Randall: Springtime in the Carolinas

By Sharon Randall

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 raise three children and live my life in California of all places.

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 of the BI-LO parking lot. Not that they care about the view.

Their survivors (my siblings, cousins and I) 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 the Carolinas to visit as often as I can, but it’s never often enough. 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 for hours recalling 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 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 of us 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, in shouting distance of one another. These days, most of us are glad just for a phone call or an email. 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.

My mother was right. A week isn’t much, but it’s something.

Here’s wishing you and yours a glorious spring, wherever it may find you.

Sharon Randall can be reached at P.O. Box 416, Pacific Grove Ca 93950, or on her website: www.sharonrandall.com.

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