Truth be told, I don't so much believe in heaven. Salvation, sure. Reincarnation, perhaps. But it's hard for me to get my head around us all holding hands and singing hymns on a cloud oneday. It's a pretty picture, but honestly, it sounds a bit boring. Not much like me. And it requires a little too much blind faith for my taste. So here's the confession: I don't believe in heaven. But if I did, I think it'd be a little bit like this weekend . . .
I went to the Outer Banks this weekend for the first time I can remember. And it was fabulous. I went with Heidi and Nathan. We spent the weekend in a cottage with Heidi's family. And it was soo good. Such good company - in the car, on the beach, in the pool. It's the first time since the end of July that I remember not feeling stressed. The first time I remember simply being happy. And it was such a gift.
The ride to the beach was glorious. Heidi and Nathan picked me up in Burlington around 6. We grabbed some dinner and drove to the East Coast on 64. The sun was setting just as we set out, and it was absolutely beautiful. It was this huge golden disk, just sinking in the sky. We listened to 100.7 The (New) River almost all the way to the beach. And it was just a moment of infinity. Great music, good conversation - jokes and memories and laughter. A great trip with great friends. I learned a myth about Virginia Dare, and threw a penny over the bridge for good luck, and saw the (ugly) Wright Memorial, and sang songs that remind me of college and songs that remind me high school and songs that remind me of love.
Heidi's family rented a cottage that was huge. It had its own pool and hot tub. We got the whole basement, and it was awesome. We stayed up after 1 just talking and hanging out and watching Heart of a Lioness on Animal Planet. (1 is super late for me - I usually go to bed around 8:30.) The television turned itself on sometime after I feel asleep and before Heidi and Nathan did. At first we thought it was an alarm, but the alarm wasn't set to go off. And Heidi said, "oh, it's my mom," in that way she does that is a little bit joking but not really. And I think it probably was. I talk to Heidi's mom sometimes. Not like entire conversations. Not like prayers. But I tell her hello when I think she might be around. So I told her hello. And I went to sleep and dreamed that I adopted a baby. A dream I hope comes true oneday.
Saturday morning we woke up and ate breakfast. Then we went to the beach. We drove out to Corolla until the road ended. And we all piled into the Jeep and kept driving, past the horse fence, right onto the beach. And it was the best thing ever. It's like the parkway but the beach, and gorgeous, and we opened the trunk so we could feel the wind. And we were all piled on top of each other and Heidi and Nathan and I were in the trunk. And it smelled like the sea. And we passed other 4 wheel drives and waved. And we watched a CRV being towed out of the sand, and I learned not to drive my car on the beach.
When we got to a spot that wasn't crowded we stopped. And we got out. And it turned out that I had been sitting on Heidi's mom (her ashes that is). So I apologized, and we laughed, and we poured her into the ocean. And we hugged and teared a minute, and then we swam. It was a great swim. The weather was gorgeos. The waves were gentle. It was a little cold, but we got used to it after a while. WE played and splashed and floated around. We saw some pelicans, and Nell said that her mom always loved pelicans, she would have loved for them to be there. And then we swam against the current and out to a sandbar. We were in ankle deep water 50 feet out. And when we swam back in we were with the current, and it carried us, and every step was little bounce, like walking on the moon, or flying. And then we dried in the sun and drove back to the house.
We swam for a while and played in the pool. In the afternoon, Heidi and the family went to her cousin's wedding. Nathan and I went to visit the lighthouse. It was so cool. It is so neat to stand in something so beautiful, and so old, that saved so many lives. Something that stands for protection and innovation and duty and constancy. We walked up the steps and read the information and took in the gorgeous view all around. We were surrounded by water - the sea on one side and the sound on the other. Below, in the courtyard, a wedding was taking place. I decided I might want to get married at a lighthouse oneday. Butterflies were playing in the garden, and the shadow of the lighthouse streched out over pine trees. We talked about which beach house we'd live in, if we could. I found that peace I always find when I watch the ocean. And when it was time to go, we left.
We went to Food Lion to get dinner and booze, but the line was ridiculous. We counted NC license plates in the parking lot and found 2. Eventually, we found a Harris Teeter and got frozen pizza and a gift bag for the baby shower. We went to "The Currituck County ABC Store," which is attached to "The Currituck County Visitor's Center," which we found hilarious. Then we went home and played in the pool, ate pizza, and watched ghost stories on BIO. Eddy and Claire came home and we hung out with them a bit. Then Heidi came home and we drank and swam and talked and played until 1 in the morning again. We broke 6 of the rules posted by the pool at the same time. It was fabulous, and fun. I didn't feel responsible. I felt free, and happy, and so lucky. I realized it's been a while since I felt really, truly happy, and I vowed to feel that way more often.
We finally went inside and watched CNN specials about the VP candidates and went to sleep. But I had been drinking coke and I couldn't sleep until around 3.
In the morning we swam some more and had a baby shower for Nell. We met Heidi's extended family who were all not sure quite who we are and made remarks like "It's nice to see you again" or stared blankly at the wall behind us. We took family photos and ate brownies and roast beef. And then we drove home.
The drive home is always longer than the drive to get there. And it's always a little more melancholoy and less exciting. But the music was just as good, and the conversation meant just as much. I fell asleep for a bit. I woke up to a road lined with cotton and tobacco. We drove through Williamston to see where Heidi came from. We stopped at the river, and saw her house, and the dry cleaners, and Main Street. And the houses reminded me of my grandmother's house at Park Avenue. And the farms reminded me of my great aunts and uncles. And I thought about how much I miss the mountains and how much I love the sea. And we all agreed that we love North Carolina. Tobacco, cotton, Southern Baptists, the biggest sand dune in the world, Appalachian football, Carborro, sweet Duplin wine, sunsets in the piedmont, snowstorms, eastern BBQ, the Avett Brothers, my family, my friends, and so much, so much more. I love this state.
We kept driving home. Stopped at Olive Garden for dinner. Nun bowled when we got back to my place. Talked of sex shops and Halloween and upcoming visits. And I treasured every moment. It was a great refresher, a great escape, a great reality. It was good to love and be loved. It was good to remember. It was good to make memories.