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Saturday, June 3, 2017

Take Me Home

I read an article this past week that made me a little homesick. But I was homesick for my roots and not where I grew up. It was an article about some women in Buckhannon, WV. My great grandparents had a house there, which my grandparents on my dad's side inherited. I've written about it a little bit before. It was a great old house, probably built around 1900, with a big front porch right on East Main Street. Great granddaddy and grandmaw rented out 3 upstairs apartments to college students attending West Virginia Wesleyan, just a few blocks away.

The entrance to the far left was for the college students. It went right up to the second floor. There were two shared kitchens and one shared bathroom between the three apartments. Once when we stayed, I remember mom cooking breakfast in the front kitchen, where the windows are on the top left.

We spent several vacations, a couple of holidays and family trips in Buckhannon. Of course, we went back for great grandmaw's funeral and then great grandaddy's funeral a year later. After my grandparents inherited the house, I spent a couple of summer breaks there too. I feel really fortunate to have known my great-grandparents and to remember things about them. Great grandmaw Edge told me a secret once and I've never told anyone what it was. It wasn't really a secret, but she started out with "You want to know a secret?", so it's always been a secret to me and I will take it to my grave. One day I'll remind her of it. I've been told that I can keep a secret. Perhaps it started right there with her. She passed not long after that, so it was all I had to remember her by. I guess if you are going to inherit something from your family, someone's trust is a pretty good thing to get. Great granddaddy always reminded me of George Burns. He also smoked a cigar. He also dressed every day. By that I mean he wore dress pants and a white dress shirt every day. Several of his white shirts though had a blackish, brownish stain in the breast pocket. He was known for putting what was left of his cigar in his pocket and I guess it wasn't always out. He chewed really fast too. I think I got the giggles one time at the table watching him eat.

You would cross the railroad tracks and the bridge over the Buckhannon River, then when you turned the corner onto Main Street. Today you see this mural of the city seal.

The town was special to me too. It felt like a second home then. The house sat right across from the Bicentennial Motel. Next to that was the town pool. The first summer I spent with my grandparents, I got to know a distant cousin. She was staying with her grandmother, my great aunt Betty, across town. We went to the pool almost every day for a couple of weeks. With it being right across from the house, when we wanted lunch or a snack, we just ran home and then ran back to the pool. Just a few blocks up the street, into town, was the Dairy Queen stand. Mom and grandmaw would walk up with us after dinner for a dipped cone. Mom loved ice cream, so I think it was more of a treat for her than it was for us. Just beyond that was a 5 & 10. I saved up my allowance for one summer and would go to the 5 & 10 and just walk around, trying to figure out what I could buy. I don't think I ever bought anything but a postcard or two for some friends back home. There was Cochran Motors on the other side of downtown. I was convinced that we were related to the owners because my grandmaw's maiden name was Cochran. She assured me that her family was never rich and could never have afforded the nice cars on that lot. The Strawberry Festival Parade would go right past the house each year. We were only there for one parade that I remember and I was so sick with tonsillitis that I ended up on the couch inside the whole time.

The Dairy Queen stand we would walk to after dinner. I can't believe it is still there. This is a current picture of it and it looks the same as it did 40 years ago.


Grandmaw went to Mable's Beauty Salon next door to get her hair done. Granddaddy shopped at the Piggly Wiggly. I went with him once and we got what we needed, headed back out and put all the bags on the floorboard of the back seat. We each got in and granddaddy tried to start the car, but he couldn't get the key to go in. He looked up into the rearview mirror and asked me why I put all my stuffed animals in the window. I told him I didn't and I turned around. I told him I didn't have any stuffed animals. We realized we were in the wrong car. He got real nervous and we got our things out and found his car a few rows over. He told me not to tell grandmaw when we got back, but no sooner than we got in the door, he told her what we did. She scolded him for it and I got the biggest kick out of it. She laughed about it after, but I think she wanted to give him a hard time first. He always did the grocery shopping and she did all the cooking. I specifically remember her making us pepperoni rolls that night. I had never had pepperoni with anything but pizza. I loved them. They were just rolls with a slice in the middle and baked. I later found out that it's truly a West Virginia thing. Miners would take them in their lunch because they would not spoil.

Aunt Betty was granddaddy's sister and was married to Uncle Hugh. He was probably my favorite uncle of all time. He was such a kind and gentle man but had a deep voice and big rough hands. He was tall and thin and was always dressed nicely. I remember him wearing a yellow sweater. He loved to tell us jokes and his laugh was also deep, loud and raspy. Uncle Hugh had been a coal miner but was retired by the time I was born because he apparently had black lung. He died about the same time my great-grandparents did. When I spent a couple of summers with my grandparents, it was just my Aunt Betty.

As far back as I can remember, I was always singing "Take Me Home, Country Roads". I thought that song was written just for us. Of course, it talked about West Virginia, but it also mentioned right away the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah River, both of which were in my backyard growing up in Shenandoah County, VA. I would sing the heck out of that song and as I grew older, I was teased for looking like John Denver. I had a mop of blonde hair and by the seventh grade, I had glasses too. I took it as a compliment though and would start singing the song. Thankfully I could actually sing and the ribbing stopped. In elementary school, the substitute P.E. teacher would ask me to sing it when we were on the swings. It was my theme song.