One of the primary reasons I write is to share my love for the place I grew up and the people who populate it. The funny thing is, quite a few of those people are long gone. Some of them were gone even before I came along.
I grew up in a house where we told stories. Well, mostly my dad told stories. And they were TRUE stories. Well, mostly true stories. Dad’s family has lived in that little corner of WV for seven generations. (I’m the 7th–my nieces and nephews might well be the 8th). The tales have accumulated like snow on a still, December morning.
There were the characters I knew–Gail Phillips, (great) Grandma Jane, and a handful of aunts, uncles, and cousins. Then there were the characters I could never know firsthand–Grandpa Rex, Grandma Nellie, Uncle Judd, Celly, and a whole raft of other, minor characters.
These people lived in my dad’s stories. They were and still are real to me. Which is why I was so delighted the day I went to see Aunt Bess, then almost 100-years-old, and we talked about these folks.
Aunt Bess had shared stories about my family before, but on this day, as she drew ever nearer to heaven, she seemed to forget that they were dead. She said she guessed Judd and Rex were still up there on the farm. I was taken aback at first, but decided to play along. “They are,” I said.
“Judd doing much hunting?”
“Yup, he’s always been a good hunter.”
She agreed, then asked about his tomatoes–said he always grew the best tomatoes.
I told her his garden was thriving.
And so we chatted about my family–the people whose stories I knew so well they were almost alive to me. And for the space of an afternoon, Aunt Bess and I traveled back in time and those people were alive. They hunted, they grew tomatoes, they basked in the wonders of a mountain summer and best of all, they loved me like they’d known me since the day I was born.
Aunt Bess is gone now. She was 102 when she finally got to dance a jig in heaven. And Gail is gone and Grandma Jane’s been gone and so are most all the rest.
But not really. Not so long as I have a time machine built into my head that lets me set these people down on paper. I can hardly wait to begin introducing readers to them.