A local Word on the Word

by Father Joe Vetter
Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Since moving to Wrightsville Beach, I have learned that a number of folks live in Wilmington most of the year and relocate to their beach home for the warmer weather. That tradition reflects a lifestyle from a different era, from a time when people understood leisure.

Air conditioning is a blessing. But like every good thing it has its dark side. I grew up in Burlington, N.C., before central air conditioning was common in homes. We closed the shades during the day to keep out the hot sun, and we turned on the exhaust fan in the attic and other fans throughout the house at night to draw in the cooler night air. We went to the theater (and later the mall) as much to cool off in air-conditioned comfort as to watch the movie.

We sat on the porch or under the trees. We had picnics in the yard or in the park. We slowed down as much as we could, ate healthier and drank lots of water, iced tea and lemonade. All the kids in our neighborhood met at the city pool every day. We wore shorts and T-shirts a lot, and stayed barefoot as much as possible.

Summer was a time to go to the beach or to the mountains. Factories shut down for the week of July Fourth and everyone who could left town for vacation. The funeral homes provided hand fans in all the pews of our churches, with a picture of Jesus on one side and an ad for their services on the other. Everyone waved their fan as they hoped the preacher would keep the sermon short.

We were fortunate to live in a part of the country where it stayed warm enough much of the year to be outside often. Our mother did not program our lives too much, nor drive us to soccer games, dance lessons and such. She was content to turn us loose in the morning and let us play all day, when there was no school or church. We rode bicycles or walked to our friendsí houses or they came to ours. We ate lunch wherever we found ourselves, always feeling welcome at the homes of friends.

Before I get too nostalgic, I will return to my point. While those who read this article have now grown up, acquired air-conditioning, turned beach cottages into really nice homes suitable for living in any season, and drive automobiles with features we could not have imagined while growing up, Wrightsville Beach has retained some of the old charm.  It seems everyone walks the Loop or the beach. Everyone seems to have a dog.  Flip-flops are more evident than dress shoes. Ice cream and hot dogs have retained a place of favor.

People here are friendly. They smile a lot and take time to talk with one another at the grocery store or restaurant. They stop to say hey when passing on the street. People still sit on porches here and talk to folks on the sidewalk. There is a kind of gentleness and civility that has been lost in many places.

Wrightsville Beach has not grown too proud to have a flotilla, and people love to come in great numbers just to be outside and see some bright lights on the water on a winter night.

How blessed we are to live in this place, which enjoys not only natural beauty, but has retained much of what makes life worth living. No wonder young people donít want to leave and older folks want to retire here.

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