Before you think, “AN AFFAIR!?!?!” let me explain…
I have a long standing love affair with Nicholas Sparks. Since I was fourteen and old enough to value his romantic ways, I have been in.love.with.him. My love for Nicholas is two-fold. His passionate stories about love, life and loss have always spoken to me in a very deep way. Despite my exceedingly logical mindset regarding career, legalities, schooling and almost everything else in life, I’ve always been a hopeless dreamer when it comes to matters of the heart. So at a very young age, when I first read “Message in a Bottle”, I fell in love for the first time in my life.
In the recent years, my affection for Mr. Sparks has only deepened. You see, Nicky is what they call a “North Carolina writer.” Every book he has written takes place in one of North Carolina’s charming little towns. As I said before, I have moved many, many times. I lived in Alabama until I was 7 and spent the following 11 years of my life moving to 7 different states before I landed in Wingate, NC my freshman year of college. I have resided in the Charlotte metro area for the past 7 years. So for me, North Carolina has become home. I love it here. We have mountains and snow, beaches and sun, professional sport teams, light houses, and a plethora of Southern charm that is hard to match.
I have recently reread some of my favorite Nicholas Sparks novels and I have discovered a new character in each book that has caused my appreciation for his writing to grow even stronger. Nicholas writes about the towns in his books as if they were an actual driving force of the story line. In his latest - “The Last Song”, the cities of Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach add as much romance and nuisance to the narrative as the lovers themselves. The way he describes the local traditions and culture captivate me and now, as a North Carolinian, I can actually appreciate the truth in his writing.
After rereading “Dear John” I was reminded of my first Valentine’s Day with Steven. We were freshmen in college (how *long* ago!) and he surprised me by driving 3 hours from Charlotte to Wilmington. He wouldn’t tell me where were going, just that I would enjoy it. We had an amazing dinner on the water and walked to see the battleship. He bought me a rose from a street vendor and blind folded me to our next destination. I knew he was taking me to the beach, but I was more than willing to play along. Unfortunately, he got lost and a policeman pulled Steven over as his driving was a little erratic. Imagine the policeman’s surprise when he found a blind folded woman in the car! After a brief explanation, the officer pointed us in the right direction and Steven lead me down the boardwalk to the beach. It was my first time at Wrightsville Beach. Despite the freezing cold temperatures and the darkness, we danced on the beach under the stars and the moon. It truly was magical. The entire ride back to Charlotte that evening, I kept thinking, “This is the one I want to marry.” Here I am 7 years later, happier than I have ever been in my life.
Somehow when I’m reading Nick’s writing, I become fully aware of the person, the Southerner, that I am. My expectations, my desires, my convictions, my faith, my life have been formed based upon the principle that I am a Christian, Southern woman who appreciates SEC football, the smell of a peanut field, the sound of children laughing, a church choir’s beautiful melody, the love of a good man and the dream of one day being a mother.
Thank-you Nicolas for reminding me that being a small town, Southern girl is something to be proud of – to be thankful for. It’s one of the many reasons I love you so dearly.