Sensitivity Warning: Duke fans might be triggered by some content.
My first ever author bio at Gallery Books said, “Kristy Woodson Harvey is a born and bred North Carolina girl who loves all four seasons, especially summer in Beaufort and fall in Chapel Hill.” So, yeah, not a ton of gravitas to that bio. But a whole lot of truth.
So many things have changed in 2020 that we’ve probably lost count. I am endlessly grateful that that whole summer-in-Beaufort thing stayed the same, but fall in Chapel Hill is looking a little bleak. I don’t know about y’all, but I mourn the end of summer. I love warm weather and long days and the beach and boat and the books. But, what gets me through, is knowing that Tarheel football season is coming. Tailgating and walking down Franklin Street and Kenan Stadium overflowing with fans. Tarheel face tattoos from Johnny T-shirt and KD loves UNC buttons and that gorgeous Carolina blue everywhere you look. Weekends at the Carolina Inn with its packed bar and soft, gooey chocolate chip cookies…
To be honest, I don’t even like football that much, which is fortunate since UNC is definitely known for its basketball. (Now basketball, I love.) But I cherish any excuse to be back at my alma mater, which is also the alma mater of my husband, my mother, my father, two aunts, both grandfathers, my great-grandfathers, etc., etc., etc. (We will try to love our son if he goes elsewhere.) But there is a clarity to the air, a crispness to the breeze, a beauty of the campus that has been around since 1789 that is unmatched by anything else. The light shines on the Bell Tower just so, the students are back, enthusiastic and ready for another of the best four years of their life, and old friends are everywhere you look. Chapel Hill in September feels on the brink of everything, like the world is new and open and yours for the taking.
In March, when this entire thing began, it never would have occurred to me that we would still be dealing with Covid-19 in September. But here we still are. No tailgating. No peanuts and popcorn or DKE barbecue on the lawn. No Carolina Inn Fridays on the Front Porch.
But, on the bright side, there are still riding boots and pumpkin spice lattes, changing leaves and roasting marshmallows, apples and kohlrabi, all those gorgeous new fall releases—and a fireplace to read them by.
Yes, indeed, even in times of change and strife there is so much to be thankful for. (Oh! Oh! Thanksgiving! That’s certainly a fun tenant of fall.) I’m grateful for memories so good and friends so dear that I can’t wait to return to them year after year. I’m grateful for the winning seasons and the losing ones. And I’m grateful for the ACC Network, so even if we aren’t in Chapel Hill in body, we can be there in spirit.
That bio was right about my being a North Carolina girl. But it missed one thing. Like the beloved song says, I’m a born and bred Tarheel. I hope that one day I will write a fitting love letter to one of the most magical places on earth. But, in the meantime, I can borrow from the immortal words of Charles Kuralt, who, in his booming and impassioned voice (talk about gravitas!), said:
“What is it that binds us to this place as no other? It is not the well or the bell or the stone walls. Or the crisp October nights or the memory of dogwoods blooming…No, our love for this place is based on the fact that it is, as it was meant to be, the University of the people.”
And all I can hope is that, by basketball season, the people—including me—will be back in the stadium, where we belong, cheering the Heels to a championship.