I spent the recent Memorial Weekend here in the US doing exactly what I wanted. Laying on a beach, listening to the waves crashing and seagulls shrilling, being beckoned into the ocean water by my nephews. Sometimes I forget how much of a pisces I am, and just need a weekend near the water. Not only did I spend some much needed time with my feet in the sand, I ended up doing some other spontaneous activities that made the weekend nothing short of spectacular, reminding me that family is everything.
After dropping off Andrew at the airport in Raleigh to fly west, I continued east to coastal North Carolina. My sister and her family would be awaiting my arrival for the weekend, although my nephews didn’t know I would be there when they got off the bus to surprise them.
After spending part of Friday sunning myself at Wrightsville Beach, my sister mentioned to me there was a Wilmington Hammerheads home soccer game that evening and I decided we had to go. The boys would love it. I would no doubt enjoy it. The five of us piled into the car, grabbed burgers for dinner on the way, and headed to Legion Stadium.
The Hammerheads are a USL Pro team, who’s season runs April through September. It was my first game not only in Wilmington, but also my first USL game. Tickets were $8 for everyone that evening – what a decently reasonable family night out! My mom and her significant other would be meeting us at the stadium on their way back from a vacation spent at the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
Let me shout from the rooftops how fantastic the Hammerheads experience was. The crowd was excited; there was lots of kids/families in attendance; Sledge the Hammerhead mascot was making his way around the field and grandstand during pre-game activities. The guy seated next to me mentioned the boys could go on the field to make a tunnel when the players are announced, and after a little hesitation, both decided they would participate. We waved to them and took photos as they passed by on their way to the center pitch, to prepare their tunnel for the players’ introduction.
If that wasn’t enough excitement, there were Hammerheads tshirts thrown into the crowd with each goal – there happened to be 5 that night in a 5-1 rout of the Pittsburgh opponent. A local Special Olympics team of cheerleaders performed at halftime which was completely heartwarming and fun to watch. After the game, the kids could all meet the players and get their team sheet, shirts, shoes, arms autographed. It was such a special night to be a part of. It always makes me smile to see a community supporting their local soccer club, and it is very evident Wilmington loves their Hammerheads.
Sunday we spent as a group on Long Beach at Oak Island. Monday, we loaded our beach towels, sandwiches and sunblock into the car and headed to one of my favorite places on the East Coast – Bald Head Island. I wrote about it here during my road trip across the US. My mom had never been to the island and endured years of my sister and I telling her how beautiful it is. We spent the day biking and golf carting around the island, lunching on a beach, venturing out to a sandbar, sunbathing at another beach, body surfing on the waves. I can never get enough of this island. It reminds me of the simple life. I get such a high from riding my rented cruiser bike on the pathways through the trees. There are no cars, no commercial areas. Just peaceful existence. If you get a chance to spend a day or longer there, trust me it is worth it.
I only wished my dad, my other sister and her brood were able to join us in North Carolina for the holiday. The weekend got me to thinking about how grateful I am for a family that loves and supports me. Maybe it is because I am the baby of the family, but every single one of them would do anything for me. They’ve always had that mentality. I’ve stayed with each of them during the past ten months; they’ve fed me and made sure I was happy and had whatever I needed. And not only do I have an immediate ((and extended)) family in the US that supports me, I have one in the UK who does the same. The Darbyshire family treats me like one of their own. They also share the mentality of doing anything for Andrew and I. How lucky am I? And I don’t want to take any of it for granted for one minute.
Mom, Dad, Kate, Greg, Beck, Druce, Keith, Sue, James, Emma, Alex, Rosie, Peter, Stephanie, Nan, Bob, Lynne, Nate, Shawn, Evandro, Donna, Dennis, and since friends are family too, James, Kyle, Lindsay, Angela – THANK YOU ALL from the bottom of my heart for loving, supporting Andrew and I and giving us a bed to sleep in and countless delicious meals in our bellies. You are individually and collectively the reasons we could embark on this adventure. We wanted to spend time with each of you; get to know you even more; bring some adventure and Andrew-and-Mary-brand happiness to your homes; have you get to know us as a couple a little better, which has been a rare occurrence while we lived on the West Coast.
Although I may not fully realize the impact of this past year for some time, I do already feel & understand the gratitude I have for all of you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
((There are a number of additional friends and family, who aren’t mentioned by name here, but have loved & supported us unconditionally, and we absolutely appreciate you, too, and thank you.))