Tuesday, April 5, 2011

D is for Down Home

I recently heard someone mention a friend of hers talking about going home.  Her home was in eastern Kentucky.  I wanted to correct her and say, "It's actually called Down Home."  But I didn't.  The hillbilly blood secretly coursing more strongly than ever through my veins made me feel that would be rude.

Down Home is what my parents' and grandparents' generations call the area around southeastern Kentucky where they grew up.  My parents grew up near Grundy, a place that is at the point where several states meet - Virginia, Kentucky, and West Virginia.  Tennessee and North Carolina are close, but my ancestors never lived there with one exception.  I have a shot glass full of North Carolina Cherokee Indian in my blood.  You would never tell it from looking at me - I am pale and have blue eyes.

The irony of going Down Home is this: while it is technically down on the map, it is up - up in the Appalachian Mountains.   The views are amazing.  If you have any tendency toward motion sickness, the drive will make you want to die.  But when you get there and finally get off the roads that wind around the mountains, you will never want to leave. 

I remember my dad taking me and my sister to this place called The Breaks.  It's a gorge that I think is right on the border of these states.  But he didn't take us down to the gorge.  He took us to the top of the mountain where the mountain seems to have broken in two.  We looked down from the top, a sight I will never forget.  On the way there, my head was spinning from the winding drive. I remember crying that I was going to be sick and making my dad stop the car more than once.  It was worth it.  I want to go back - I want to go back now to show my kids this amazing sight even if it makes me and them sick on the way there.

I remember sitting on my uncle's front porch.  There were mountains in every direction.  It was peaceful and unbelievably gorgeous.  My aunt, uncle, and cousins were all very intelligent but weren't in such a hurry with their words and their mannerisms.  Even as a child, I was struck by the comfortable, slow pace that I was not used to.  I would love to live there now but know there aren't many jobs there.  I could live without the internet - maybe, I think I could, maybe not - but my husband definitely could not work without a fast internet connection and cell phone reception.  So we stay here.

The thing that fascinates me about my ancestors is everyone except a small handful left that slow-paced, gorgeous place that was most certainly created by hand by God himself - I suspect it took more than a day.  My ancestors left the mountains to come here for work - for money.  All of them except my dad are committed to never ever going back to that place to stay. 

But they say the words, Down Home, with so much love.


  1. Going Down Home is getting harder and harder, now, because so many of those I love and grew old with have gone ahead to greet me, later. The younger generation has almost stopped the annual family get-together because they say their lives are too busy. Very sad. This is a beautiful homage to a wonderful world you're a part of and may it continue to give you sustenance.

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    I lived in Tennessee for thirteen years--in the valley, not in the mountains--but I've visited the mountains and they are breathtaking.