Memories of Appalachia

I came across a fam­i­ly snap­shot recent­ly.  It dat­ed back to my child­hood and was of my aunt, grand­moth­er, and great aunt.  Floodgates of mem­o­ries came rush­ing to the sur­face.  The pho­to was tak­en at the fam­i­ly ceme­tery in east­ern Kentucky.  I did not grow up in Appalachia.  I watched it from the out­side.  It flows through my veins and is a part of me, but I am not a part of it.  I admire her from afar, breath­ing in her beau­ty until it is deep with­in my lungs wrap­ping my her­itage around me like a warm blan­ket on a snowy night.  I expe­ri­enced her.  On week­end vis­its, fam­i­ly reunions, and funer­als of loved ones, I got to be a part of her beau­ti­ful way of life.  I give Appalachia a fem­i­nine pro­noun because it holds you like a moth­er, makes sure you are fed, and com­forts your soul.  She is beau­ti­ful, and I love her.

I was raised here in Clark County.  Born at the Guerrant Clinic in 1970, my birth­place is now a muse­um.  A sure sign that I have been here too long.  I have argued with many that Kentucky is def­i­nite­ly not south­ern.  Kentucky is Appalachian from the east­ern bor­der until Lexington.  Then, as far as I’m con­cerned, you are just Kentuckian, with some being, dare I say it, Midwestern.  When I trav­eled up north, no one had ever accused me of being south­ern; they had asked me if I was from Kentucky.  We are unique with a unique dialect and cul­ture that I am not will­ing to share.  Winchester is con­sid­ered the Gateway to Appalachia, so we get a pass as the wel­com­ing com­mit­tee to Her Majesty.

Both of my par­ents are from Wolfe County, Kentucky.  My Granny lived in a holler, while my Mamaw lived atop a cliff.  Neither had indoor plumb­ing, with my Granny hav­ing a two-seater out­house for con­ver­sa­tions, of course.  My Mamaw had a fan­cy sin­gle-seat out­house com­plete with wall­pa­per, a toi­let paper roll, a seat cov­er, and a fly swat.  Life was sim­ple there, but it was mag­ic!  There were nat­ur­al rooms to play in made by tree branch­es.  My Mamaw would hang spare items with­in them like a sto­ry­book hide­away.  Birds and pret­ty plas­tic baubles float­ing above our lit­tle heads.  They would add old toys found around the house or at the junk store for our enjoyment. 

Granny’s house was heat­ed by a pot­bel­ly stove.  A large pile of coal and wood would be out front to get them through the win­ter.  We would sit out­side and make mud hous­es in the sum­mer.  Granny would take cig­a­rette butts left in the yard by vis­i­tors and make chim­neys.  I would laugh, and so would she.  My Granny and those like her could grow any­thing, any­where.  Summer vis­its includ­ed a tour of the gar­den.  The gar­den was grown on a hill­side of clay dirt.  Completely unfor­giv­ing in the hot sum­mer sun, she was always able to har­vest a bounty.

Granny was a true moun­tain woman, see­ing the spir­its of those who moved on.  The sto­ry was told to me many times about the death of my Uncle’s ex-wife in anoth­er town.  Granny could not go to pay her respects, and she griev­ed great­ly for this beloved friend.  As she stood by her kitchen win­dow star­ing at the sky, wish­ing she could be with her daughter-in-law’s fam­i­ly, she saw her float­ing by in the clouds.  Believed to be on her way to her final des­ti­na­tion, Granny felt at peace. 

Granny also pos­sessed the art of being both a wart and a water witch.  She passed the gift of find­ing water onto my Uncle.  I attempt­ed once with­out suc­cess, but I will try again now that I am old­er.  Wish me luck.  Granny could remove a wart with a bit of twine and a piece of drift­wood.  “Tie the twine to the drift­wood and throw it into the creek.  When the twine rots, your wart will be gone.”  These were the instruc­tions giv­en to my moth­er as a young girl.  She did as she was told.  After some time had passed, she noticed that the wart was gone. 

There is a romance to Appalachia.  A bygone era still exists amongst cell phones and the World Wide Web.  A time that I still love to vis­it and am glad to have been a part of.  I may have nev­er lived under its cov­er, but it flows through my veins and is in the mar­row of my bones.  I love you, Mother Appalachia, always and forever.

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