Being a West Virginian is hard.
As purists are quick to remind me, I’m not ‘from here’ originally. I was born just over the state line, in Cumberland, MD. My family moved all over the place when I was a kid, so I had no direct sense of my Appalachian heritage. When my parents finally reversed the Appalachian out-migration trend for our family, I was 15 and a Yankee.
Damn proud of it, too. We lived in Stamford, Connecticut, a 40 minute train ride to New York City. When my folks announced in the winter of 1983 that we were moving to Clarksburg, WV in the summer, I cried for weeks.
On arriving in Clarksburg, I had little comfort that life would be fun or good. In fact, save for a few bright spots, I can honestly say that my 3 years in high school in Clarksburg were pure misery. I remember driving down Bridgeport Hill Road (route 50) in the winter and looking at the mountains. They were bare and oppressive to me then, holding me back – in a place I did not want to be.
This post is not gripe fest, bear with me for a moment.
To be fair, High School is miserable for many people. And, I had a 15 year old Yankee attitude; to a degree my big mouth played a role in my misery.
I fled the state, like many do, to go to college in North Carolina. I thought I’d never come back for anything more than a visit. But through the strange twists of fate that are life, I wound up here. Married a West Virginia boy, made friends.
Fell in love with the mountains and their juxtaposition of comfort and oppression. When we tried to move away, my heart ached for them…that’s why I understand so well what Kathy Mattea told me in an interview last week.
She said there’s no place like it.
Here’s the piece. I’m grateful to West Virginia Public Radio for airing it tomorrow, also to the WV Council of Churches and the WV Conference of the UMC (where I work now) for an environment that encourages creativity.