I won't be making it to North Carolina this Fourth of July. I can't remember how many years that has been a part of my life. But I can best guess this by recalling a vision of my stepson, Erik, on our first Carolina Fourth.
He was tall and gangly for his age, which must have put him at 11 or 12. He didn't hang out much with the old folks. Mostly he sat with a spiral notebook and pen, writing his first novel. That must have been almost 20 years ago, and he hasn't yet finished it. But he's written a dozen plays and movie scripts since. And, meanwhile, I gratefully accepted the Carolina habit as my birthday gift. I got there by way of Chicago. There was a nest of writers-to-be living and working in Chicago after World War II. We were young — mostly in our mid-20s — and many of us had started families. So we were trained early on that we couldn't indulge ourselves with artistic prose that didn't bring in immediate money. It was a powerful bond that has stayed with us and will forever.