Well, I finished reading Prince of Tides. I think I may have read it before, many years ago. The ending was really familiar. Maybe I'm just remembering the film. The writing is incredible. It is so moving and I want to quote some of the prose. It's sweet, and his love of the south is familiar. It reminded me a lot of the time I spent in Belhaven, NC, as a child. My friends Theresa and Stephanie both visited there with me at one time or another while I was growing up. Early in life, I think we visited on most of the holidays. It is the town where my parents grew up. I didn't know my Mama's father, but I knew my Dad's father, Harold Thorne White, Sr. He was quite a character, I've been told. He was a people person, I know that. I wish I'd known him better because I've been told he never forgot a face or a name, and he could remember people's birthdays and anniversaries well. I'm like that, too. He passed when I was 6, so I have very few memories of him. Like several of his brothers and sisters, he was a pretty bad alcoholic for a large part of his life, but he became sober for good just a few years before he died. He went to a place called The Shepherd Home for Men, I believe.
Both of my grandmothers I knew well. Granny White was Thelma Plum Howerin White. Memom was Edna Earl(e) Spencer Allen Fussell Gregory. This was my Mom's mother. These 2 ladies were very different from each other. I spent a lot of time with both of them when I was a girl. Until I was 9 years old we lived in Newport News, VA, in Hampton Roads. There the James River is 4 miles wide. Here in Richmond its width can be measured in yards. Oddly, most of my memories as a child are of times when I was in Belhaven. I have very few memories of where I spent most of my time, Newport News.
Belhaven is in Beaufort County, NC, and the county seat is Washington, NC. Beaufort, NC, is not in Beaufort County. The town of Beaufort is further south. It is pronounced Bofert. Belhaven "beautiful harbor" or a metaphor for me -- 'safe place' is a peninsula with Pantego Creek on one side, and the Pungo River, off the Pamlico Sound. The area is known as the 'inner banks' of North Carolina. When I was a girl there were 3 crab houses (places where the meat would be picked from the shells and claws of crabs, by hand.) It also had drinking water that had a lot of sulphur and didn't taste or smell very good to me. So, the town had a pungent smell. I remember looking for pearls in oysters as my Dad shucked them, and eating them raw just to be tough. My favorite food then was fried shrimp. Now it is crab meat, served just about any way. I'm pretty picky, though, about where it comes from. I read recently something like 60% of fish sold comes from 'farms' now. Just like commercial agriculture, commerical farming of seafood produces a lot of pollution, and can be unsafe because it can be contaminated with so many of the animals eating, excreting in one little space. Plus both practices pollute the oceans.
Back to Belhaven--the mosquitoes were terrible. During the summer the "mosquito truck" would spray pesticide and leave a fantastic fog in the street through which we would joyfully run! I remember storms that smelled so good, and jumping in puddles as the storm died down with its last big drops. I have a blessed memory of lying in bed at Memom's being able to smell flowers and hear birds singing. I love hearing birds sing in the morning.
Memom and Granny both had hydrangeas in their yards, which I loved. They also had pecan trees. I rarely entered Granny's backyard. For some reason I was a little afraid of it. However, I loved her front yard. She lived on Main Street and had a big front porch with a swing and I loved sitting on it and watching people walk or ride by. It was also the perfect perch for the annual 4th of July parade, where this town of about 2000 swelled to about 15,000 for the day. It was one wild day. The parade got over about noon, but the parade of partiers lasted all day into the night and that was fun to watch, too. There was a street party at night but I was always too young to go to that. My Aunt Nellie lived on the water, a block behind Granny, and we always watched the fireworks from her pier.
My favorite place in the world to be was Granny's front porch. It still is. We always felt so safe with Granny. She exuded granny-ness. She always smelled good and wore tasteful mauve lipstick. I don't think I ever saw her sweat. She was gentle and genteel. She made this delicious cake with yellow batter and thick fudge frosting, and she took a fork or something to make the thick fudge frosting go into the cake. It was divine. She made the best sweet tea, too. Strong and sweet.
Well, I'll go ahead and post this. I hope it isn't boring. Just wanted to get some of my memories of Belhaven on paper, so to speak.