As sure as the stars and stripes, our nation’s Independence Day approaches and so it’s time for my annual column about being an American.
The turtle’s name is Pickles. The Durham turtle. You know the one. It’s only eight years old, but if you have a kid, or are a kid at heart, you’ve climbed on that turtle sculpture at Durham Central Park.
What is fatherhood?
Fatherhood is standing in public holding a miniature Dora the Explorer backpack and acting like it’s no big deal, because it isn’t. As a father, you hold your kids’ stuff, whether it’s Dora or princesses or Iron Man. And you play with them, too.
Last Saturday, I was at a baseball game at 10 a.m., and at a baseball game at 10 p.m. It was a great day.
In the morning, I sat in a folding chair under the hot sun watching my son’s T-ball team, named for a kind of shark, enjoy America’s pastime.
In the evening, my almost-done-with-kindergarten kid sat next to me at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
Carolyn Hemingway. Antonio Dixon. Those who perished at Dachau during the Holocaust. Those that gave their lives for their country during war. Within less than two weeks, I covered four assignments that each had the same purpose – to remember those who were killed. One was a funeral. One was a national holiday. Two were vigils. Each of the four events were held on sunny days. Each of the four events remembered those who died not in peace, but by violence. Each of the four was emotional for those who were connected to those who died.
Back when I was a reporter in Southwestern Virginia, I covered the June 6, 2001, opening of the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Va. I left my home in Blacksburg at dawn, driving through several towns on the way to a rather small town, especially for a national memorial. But it’s there because Bedford lost the most soldiers, per capita, of anywhere else in the country on D-Day.
The dedication was a long day and an exciting one. Thousands of people were there, including the president. It was an important story because it was part of a thousand stories of those who will never forget June 6, 1944, the day of the Allies’ invasion of Normandy, France, during World War II.
Do you remember that boy or girl you playfully kicked under your desks in third grade? Dawn Grasty and Randy Weisbaum do. Picture it: Simi Valley, California, 1969 to 1971. Grasty and Weisbaum were best friends in third and fourth grades.
The first time I was ever in the Dean Dome was not for a basketball game, but my sister’s graduation hooding ceremony when she received her Ph.D. from UNC Chapel Hill. I didn’t live in the Triangle yet. I was still living in another college town about four hours north. It was May 2004.
I wore the wrong shoes – big clunky sandals that I traded for cheap flip flops I bought on Franklin Street hours later. I know better now. Anyway, I have a framed photograph of my sister, Joy, in her graduation gown, the UNC Bell Tower in the background. She’s looking off into the distance. I’m sure I asked her to, to capture a wistful moment. The reality was we happened right by the tower in a hurry to the ceremony and I snapped a quick picture.
You all know how hip-hop producer 9th Wonder and N.C. Central University men’s basketball coach LeVelle Moton were buddies back in the day on campus as students. After 9th Wonder launched the Hip-Hop Institute at NCCU with history department chair Jim Harper last month, you learned that Harper was there, too, doing his history thing while 9th made beats and Moton carried that basketball around. That was in the mid-1990s. You know, just the other day. Not long ago. Recently. Say what? That was 20 years ago? Oh, right. Time moves fast.
About a year ago, some of you shared my disappointment and a tad bit of disgruntledness about the cancellation of the 2013 air show at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. At the time, the military was being prudent and waiting for Congress to stop being petulant before going ahead with an event for civilians. Well, that’s more or less resolved now and this year’s air show is back on – not at Seymour Johnson AFB, but the usual rotation it takes with Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point.
It’s a solid two and a half hour drive each way from the Triangle to see the air show. I think it’ll be worth it. I’m going. It’s free and will be held May 16-18 at MCAS Cherry Point. Did I mention it’s free? You can buy a seat if you want to park yourself and watch. Parking your car is free, though. The air is as free as the wild blue yonder.
Bobby Lougee loved to socialize. Even when age made it harder to get around, Lougee kept it up because his old friends appreciated his efforts. He liked it, too, of course. Lougee, who died Memorial Day weekend 2013, was a World War II veteran, a Marine, a good friend to many, and a man who remembered a time in Durham when you could get six hot dogs for a quarter.
After I wrote about my son’s first day of kindergarten last fall, I heard from a reader about her own child’s first day of school. After her daughter got on the Durham school bus, the mom got in her car and followed the bus to school before returning home. It was a mom thing to do.
I love the sitcom “The Goldbergs” first, because it’s hilarious. I identify with being an ’80s kid, too. But the best part is the mom who goes lovingly overboard as her kids grow up.
Do you remember Pansy Dodson? I wrote about her last year and the letters she and her sister send out monthly to about 200 friends, in a June 2013 story headlined “Verses of Comfort.”
There’s a new book out that Tar Heels will be talking about for awhile. “Talkin’ Tar Heel: How Our Voices Tell the Story of North Carolina” landed on our Books desk Friday. In true Southern fashion, I will soon go off on a tangent, telling stories on the side.
“Talkin’ Tar Heel” is published by UNC Press and written by Walt Wolfram, the William C. Friday Distinguished Professor of English at UNC Chapel Hill, and Jeffrey Reaser, associate professor of English at N.C. State University. The book includes the findings of more than 20 years of research by the North Carolina Language and Life Project at N.C. State. Duke University wasn’t part of it because – insert Yankee joke here. But actually, Northern accents contribute as much to the sound of our voices here as Southern ones. As Wolfram and Reaser write in the first chapter: “The voices of North Carolinians reflect the diversity of its people.”
In the words of the awesome Pharrell Williams, music man extraordinaire: “Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth.” Let’s clap for N.C. Central University, or for those of us well familiar with Durham, just Central or NCCU.