Tag Archives: South Carolina

New traditions are bittersweet.

23 Dec

Though I love that my parents moved up to NC in May of this year and are now only a 45-minute drive away from me, the “big move” involved selling the house I grew up in until I was 16 years old. Though I was ready to get out of my small hometown as soon as the opportunity presented itself, I loved growing up in the house that I did, and I am very fortunate to have been provided with a house that was full of love, comfort, books, and many memories.

Every single holiday memory I have took place in that house, and this year will be the first time I will be making new traditions in a different house. I’m happy with how things are now, of course. I love my parents’ current house more than my childhood home in SC, but my childhood home holds every single memory of my life up until the age of 16. Decorating the Christmas tree with my mom and getting nostalgic when pulling out the hand-made ornaments from when I was 5 and 6, making Christmas cookies in the kitchen, and putting up my own little fiber-optic Christmas tree (which came into the picture many years ago when I spent the holidays in Shriner’s Hospital for Kids and wanted something to make it feel more like Christmas in my hospital room). Even though the majority of our holiday “traditions,” or just how Christmas Day would pan out, are easy to duplicate in a different house, I think the kicker is also the realization that we will be opening presents and stockings in a different house from now on. The Christmas tree is up against a wall of windows rather than being set in a corner with two couches nestled around it. Since we have a wood stove, there is no fireplace to hang our stockings, and for the very first time, we will only have 5 stockings as opposed to 6 (since we lost Roxy, one of our springer spaniels, this year). Despite that sadness, Hoss, Roxy’s son, will be getting plenty of treats and as much love and attention as we can possibly show him. Needless to say, he’ll definitely be a happy camper on Christmas morning.

I don’t doubt that this Christmas will be just as special as previous holidays. However, I know that for me, it’ll be an emotional adjustment. I know that this year when I wake up on Christmas morning, I’ll be picturing the tree nestled in a corner…stockings hung up on the fireplace…and Hoss and Roxy sitting around my parents, my brother and I as we open stockings and gifts in our pajamas. And maybe, for just a few seconds, I’ll feel a bit sad about not getting to experience another Christmas in my childhood home, but then I will be sure to understand how fortunate I am to even have the opportunity to celebrate the holidays with my family around me.

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The Shrine Bowl of 2003.

25 Nov

Ten years ago, as I was riding back from one of my weekly physical therapy sessions with my mom, I received a phone call informing me I had been nominated to be the Shrine Bowl Queen. At the time, I wasn’t sure what being a Shrine Bowl Queen meant, and I didn’t know there was a football game that took place every year in the Carolinas hosted by the Shriners.

As months went by following that first phone call, I received more phone calls informing me I was a finalist and finally that I had been chosen as the Shrine Bowl Queen for the Shrine Bowl of 2003. I didn’t know what to think. I was excited, obviously. However, I was confused as to how I’d been chosen. Apparently, as I later learned, I had been one of the few girls who had been chosen out of the thousands of patients who had been in and out of Shriner’s Hospital for Kids in Greenville, SC, over the past year. Though sometimes it still blows my mind that I was picked out of all the others girls that year, I’m proud. I was chosen because I had stood out. However, for once, I didn’t stand out because of my disability (since the majority of the kids at Shriner’s were disabled too). I stood out because someone saw me as one of the patients at Shriner’s who had faced a lot, but was still able to have a smile on her face and a lively laugh despite the pain.

Being named “the Shrine Bowl Queen” involved attending two required events. The first event was a parade that took place in Myrtle Beach, SC, in which I rode on a float (along with the Shrine Bowl King) to support the Shriners and the Shrine Bowl game that would take place in the Spring. The second event was the Shrine Bowl itself. Though I don’t remember the outcome of the football game, I remember being so incredibly nervous, but also extremely excited. As time passed during the first quarter, I knew the chance to make my appearance was getting closer and closer. Part of being the Shrine Bowl Queen (or King) involves going onto the football field during halftime of the Shrine Bowl to release a dove into the air. During this time, both the king and the queen each receive a trophy with their name engraved as well as a football that is signed by all the Shrine Bowl players of that year. Though I was excited about having the opportunity to walk out onto the field with the Shriners to release a dove, the thought of being in front of so many people gave me huge knots in my stomach. However, despite the nervousness, I knew that I would walk out onto that field. After all, I had been chosen as the Shrine Bowl Queen for the Shrine Bowl of 2003. With all references of having a disability aside, that isn’t an opportunity that you simply walk away from.

I guess you could say that the Shrine Bowl of 2003 was one of the highlights of my time at Shriner’s Hospital for Kids. Though there were definitely some other exciting times that were connected with getting closer and closer to independence, the majority of those memories were layered with months of physical pain. However, the Shrine Bowl of 2003 didn’t include any kind of pain: physical or emotional. It just served as a day which now signifies that I was a patient at Shriner’s Hospital for Children, and I was a prime example of a girl who endured. Though there are definitely numerous moments now in which I’m able to look back on all that I have overcome, being chosen to be the Shrine Bowl Queen of 2003 was evidence that I wasn’t the only one who was able to recognize all that I had endured. Doctors, physical therapists, nurses, and others at Shriner’s who were responsible with making the Shrine Bowl Queen nominations knew it as well. They probably knew it long before I even saw myself as someone who could smile and laugh despite the continued presence of pain in my life.

The magic of first lines in literature.

14 Nov

Throughout my time spent as a writer and a genuine lover of words and literature, I have been told over and over of the crystal importance of the first line. From a fiction summer workshop professor to a news writing professor, I have been told the same thing: The first line of any poem, article, short story, or novel is what stands between your reader picking up a different piece of writing or sitting down to spend the evening engrossed in your words on the page, so you’ve got to make it not just good…but damn good.

I remember the very first time a first line of literature completely pulled me in. It was Christmastime in South Carolina, and instead of playing outside with all the other kids on my block talking about what we hoped to get for Christmas, I was sitting in my room reading the very first line of The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.

“It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenburgs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.”

I don’t know what it was about this first line that grabbed me, but after I read it, I couldn’t help wondering who the Rosenburgs were and why they had been executed. Maybe it grabbed me because of how the summer was described as “queer” and “sultry,” or maybe even though I didn’t know why the main character, Esther Greenwood, was in New York, I wanted to find out just as much as she did. Or maybe I just liked the way each word in the sentence combined to form the perfect combination of sounds and emotions.

I don’t remember putting down the book that first night, after being completely hooked by the first line. I most likely fell asleep with the book in my hands, only to wake up the next morning and keep on reading. That’s when you know you’ve found an incredible work of literature: when life stops until the last page is turned. To this day, the beginning of The Bell Jar comes to mind when I think of first lines. However, is another first line that has held just as much impact for me as Plath’s words did. Here’s the first line of Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons, which is also an incredibly amazing, though quite depressing read.

“When I was little I would think of ways to kill my daddy.”

Yes, I warned you it was morbid. However, first lines aren’t exactly supposed to make you squeal with joy. They are supposed to make you think. They are supposed to make you want to stay up late into the night just because you want to know what happens to a character that has entered your heart, though you have told yourself over and over that the character isn’t real. First lines are supposed to cause you to stretch your mind and question your beliefs. If first lines often stated things that we strongly believed in, they wouldn’t be nearly as interesting. It’s the first lines that keep us up at night that are the most powerful. Though we may not openly admit it, we like to be challenged. Being challenged allows us to open our minds to other possibilities, which helps us to grow as people and as a society. It’s the first lines that have you begging for more even after you have turned the last page that hold the most promise. And it’s those gripping first lines that push readers of all ages to come back to literature, again and again. It’s not just enough to read one book and be done with it. We must read them all. We must make each book a part of us, another world waiting to be discovered, another life filled with all new characters and places that we are ready to welcome home.