I was the youngest. Rag tag kid, following around my older brother and sister and their friends. It was a quick transition from them thinking I was “cute” to an “annoyance”.
My father being in his forties when I was born, allowed for a different type of relationship with him that my siblings had. I didn’t get the camping trips, boating trips or any of the outdoors life that my parents may have had prior to my birth.
In an effect, I changed everything. Or so it felt like as I was growing up. Money became tighter. My father worked double shifts and I barely saw him. On the weekends when he was home, he was either working on his cars or in the yard.
So when I was around 10, and my father decided to do a trip to visit his relatives in West Virginia, I excitedly wanted to tag along. Michigan is a relatively flat state and this trip was one of my first times in the mountains. Those beautiful, rolling Appalachians with old country roads full of hair pin curves. It was also my first time getting car sick because of those rolling hills. Thankfully, this problem has never reoccured.
We visited relatives in the farmlands of West Virginia where there were still smoke houses on property and farm to table wasn’t some overpriced dinner option for tourists passing through.
We visited the old family cemetery, where as a young girl I marveled at the steep incline to reach it and how it was only accessible using our 4 wheel drive. I got to wander among the weathered headstones of family members that I had not yet heard about.
However the memory of that trip that stays with me, are the walks I took with my father. We walked up dirt mountain roads and along the family property. I picked up rocks and my father told me all about the quartz granite and limestone that these hills held. He told me about what it was like to live and work on a farm. As a city girl, who only understood how food came prepackaged to my table, it all started to make sense. The connection to how this land not only sustains the body but feeds the soul.
I think that’s when I fell in love with the Appalachian Mountains. The mountains of my father. As he gets up in years, I wonder if I’ll ever get to go back with him. There’s dialysis appointments and he can’t walk very far distances these days. But the little girl in me wants to have a few more walks in those mountains with my Dad, listening intently to his stories about a time and place that always feel like home.