Monday, November 10, 2008

Sweet Home Carolina

A week ago I went back to Ohio—back home, I would have said not that many years ago. It was “book” travel, the kind you can deduct on your Schedule C as a business expense. We stayed with my stepson and his family for eight days. (They’re very understanding and wonderful people.)

On Tuesday night, I had a scheduled speaking engagement at the Parma South branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library. Good crowd, nice book sales for the Friends of the Library group, and lots of interesting questions from the audience. But as we stepped outside just after 9 PM, we were greeted by sleet. A fine mist of it, but definitely the dreaded combination of rain mixed with snow. SNOW!! On October 28! We shook our heads, and I hoped I remembered how to drive in the blasted stuff in my Hertz-supplied mini-SUV. As I pulled out of the library parking lot, I found myself with the old familiar death grip on the steering wheel. Ah, those were the days.

By Thursday, the weather had ameliorated to bright sunshine and a balmy 62 degrees. We met with an old classmate of mine, did a nostalgia tour of my hometown, and visited a high school hangout for a famous Oh Boy double-decker burger. Saturday was the Buckeye Book Fair in Wooster, about an hour south of where we were staying. It was a fabulous festival held at a huge building on the Ohio State Wooster campus, crowded with book lovers—and buyers—for the entire day, with some of the proceeds going to charity. Heaven is hanging out surrounded by books with people who are eager to talk about them. I dispensed some advice to aspiring writers, reconnected with folks I’d met at previous fairs, and generally had a fabulous time.

In spite of the usual frenetic airport nonsense, we arrived back in Savannah almost on schedule. We battled up I-95, hitting rush hour traffic a few miles from Hilton Head. And then, there it was. We crested the bridges and saw the island spread out in front of us, a few boats drifting in against the retreating tide, the last of the sun casting shadows across Pinckney Island and Skull Creek. It’s so incredibly beautiful, even on a chilly November evening sliding into dusk.

It feels like home. It smells like home. When we rolled off the second bridge, it almost felt as if I could finally breathe again, as if the rest of the world had been shut out. Insular. Though I was born in Ohio and lived there for nearly fifty years, Hilton Head has become my home. We visit Lorain County just west of Cleveland, but the island is ours. I’m beginning to think I was intended all along to be born in South Carolina, but my parents somehow didn’t get the message. I truly belong here. Truly.

Maybe it’s not too late to claim citizenship if you legitimate Southerners will have me. Is there room for one more repentant carpetbagger?

I'll be happy to fill out the necessary paperwork.

Kathy Wall grew up in a small town in northern Ohio. She and her husband Norman have lived on Hilton Head Island since 1994. Her 8th Bay Tanner mystery, The Mercy Oak, was released in May by St. Martin’s Press. Watch for Covenant Hall coming next spring.

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