We just pulled out of our rental in Wrightsville Beach and are driving back to NY. I signed the guest book and thanked the condo owner for the best vacation we’ve had in so many years.
Wrightsville (named after the famous brothers who were “First in Flight”) is a small island off of Wilmington, NC. Each year my husband’s extended family gathers here for a week in early August. While Adam’s immediate ancestors emigrated to NY from Eastern Europe, many of them somehow ended up in the Southeastern US. Some of the family descendants have since spread out to different regions, but they have been coming back to Wrightsville for the past 60 summers.
I just love it here. The ocean is undoubtedly the most enjoyable, swimmable water anywhere. Perfectly smooth sand, little to no ocean debris, perfect water temperature and great waves that allow for amazing body surfing. Cape Cod, Hamptons, and Boca can wait. When it comes to a great beach day, Wrightsville is my dirty little beach secret.
Vacations like these, with the serenity of the ocean and the laid-back atmosphere, provide opportunity for reflection and nostalgia. I was pregnant with my oldest son Sam during my first visit. Because we were less encumbered and more adventurous then, we first flew to Norfolk and travelled through the Outer Banks before continuing on to Wrightsville. We have returned 7 times since then and our own family has grown to include our 3 boys. Adam and I reminisce about when the boys were younger and our days were far from relaxing.…Remember when you were so upset that the boys hated the beach because of the sand? Diaper bags, sippy cups, prickly heat and wrestling over sunscreen application? When Leo ran into the ocean with his insulin pump on? When the fire alarm in the hotel went off, causing Ben to cry for hours?
One of the best things about Wrightsville is being with all the different generations. There is always a reason to celebrate: bridal shower, new baby, engagement, birthday parties. We always celebrate the matriarch Aunt Elaine’s birthday (she just turned 87), and we also celebrate Leo’s birthday. Since there are many offshoots of the family, there are many informal gatherings, brunch, BBQ, pizza party. This year Uncle Tommy brought in a DJ from Charlotte, NC for the ice cream party . It’s not easy to satisfy musical tastes spanning 8 decades, but he got a lot of people dancing that night.
I also love hearing what the younger cousins are up to. Over the past decade, I have seen the high school partiers advance to hard-working jobs, teaching positions, medical school and doctoral programs. Some are still finding their way. Throughout the year, we all look forward to the week . We share our trials and triumphs and we don’t need to feel bad if we haven’t been in touch over the past year. It’s always, “see you at beach.”
I feel happier and more relaxed than I have in many years. Unfortunately, Adam and I think of our lives as BD and AD, before diabetes and after diabetes. This year marks our 5th summer with diabetes. It’s not that we can’t enjoy ourselves at all, it’s just a different reality. We do our best with monitoring blood sugars, weighing foods to give appropriate insulin, and dealing with food restrictions. Since we are away from our regular routines and enjoying extra festivities, we know we may also be up all night correcting wide blood sugar swings.
Somehow this year feels different, it feels better. It is still complicated and frustrating, but nothing unexpected. Every day remains challenging, but I think, just maybe, that I have finally accepted the diabetes. I was upset when Adam told me last year, “You have not yet come to terms with the kids having diabetes, you are still so angry.” Perhaps he was right?
My job is to manage my kids’ diabetes, restrictive diets, foster emotional growth, and provide them with every possible opportunity to experience life safely. A week like this one reassures me that we’re all doing well.
As Adam drives us home, I close my eyes and try to burn the recent images into my brain…the boys playing ball on the beach with their cousins, Marco Polo in the pool, tubing from Tommy’s boat, and dancing on Aunt Elaine’s driveway. I tell Adam “I am so happy. Please remind me of this moment during the low points we always hit during the year.”
What is it about Wrightsville? A dose of blissful summer heaven, the vast ocean showing us a world larger than our own, the stormy weather blowing over so we can enjoy the remainder of our afternoon. During my last view from the terrace this morning I enjoyed watching and listening to the waves repeatedly lap the shoreline. I wondered what was in store for us during the coming year, grateful that we can return here again. Then the sounds of my kids fighting brought me back inside. It was time to load the car before we gassed up and grabbed coffee for the road.
Thank you Wrightsville, and thank you readers. This blog is about the realities of our everyday lives: the good and the bad. How great it feels to focus on the good.