I often say that my family is half a generation out of Appalachia, which isn't all that far from the truth. I was born in Tucson, Arizona, and I consider myself lucky, because I made it all the way out of the hills.
My Grandma Rose left the Kentucky hill country more than half a century ago, having only an eighth grade education, several children to support, and a penchant for horrible men. One of those men was my grandfather, Enos (who went by the name of 'Red'), and with him she had four children, including my father. My father grew up not in Kentucky, but on Kentucky Street, a grim little corner of Appalachia in sunny Tucson, Arizona.
My father eventually made it out of Kentucky Street. He met and married my mother, and eventually they had me. I grew up in Arizona and Oregon, thousands of miles from Kentucky and worlds away from Kentucky Street. All I know of Appalachia is the ancestral tale of poverty and desperation, malnutrition and teenage brides.
So to me, Appalachia isn't really a place where real people live. It's a place where hillbilly caricatures live, and a place you work your ass off to stay out of. So Twin-Knit's blog has been a source of endless fascination to me. Jennie is a knitter and musicologist who, until recently, was living in rural Appalachia, doing research on traditional music in the region. I've been making my way through her archives in the past few weeks (older posts available here), and am developing a more nuanced perspective on that part of the world for the first time.
Originally from Philly, Jennie recently decided to move home. She posted a lot about both places, about her decision to move, and about coming home. All of which got me thinking about place, the place you're from and what that does to you. And where my place might be.
I find that I miss Arizona. I miss the open sky, grey-green thorny plants, and finding good salsa and tortillas at every single restaurant and grocery store in the city. I miss road runners, horny toads and tumbleweeds. I miss big turquoise jewelry and people who know a double-ll should be pronounced as a 'y.' I miss being warm ten months of the year and seeing thunderstorms that knock down trees and flood streets and slay unwary golfers.
And I miss Oregon. I miss the valley we lived in, surrounded by hills that turned yellow-brown in the summer and forested mountains that stayed green year-round. I miss the hippies, and the coffee shops and bookstores I spent so many hours in. I miss the thrift shop dresses, vintage tweed blazers and clunky shoes I wore. I even miss the rain.
Most of all, I miss walking down a street and feeling connected to places. I enjoy my neighborhood outside Boston, but my first love and my first heartbreak and my first experience with death all happened in another place. Here, I don't walk past something and remember important and formative things that happened in that spot, and so Boston has never actually felt like home to me.
Is that normal? Does it ever go away? Do you build enough memories in a new place to make it feel like home? Or does part of you always miss those other places?
And if you always miss those other places, should you think about going home?