Everyone has a place that they call home, a place where family lives, where things are familiar, “where everybody knows your name” (wait, that’s from the TV show Cheers, and yet it still applies). Living away from home has helped me appreciate memories of time spent there with family and friends. Tonight I’m inspired to share these stories, and I’m thankful to have so many happy memories to choose from.
Missing the Mountains
Most of my family is from Eastern Kentucky where my mother still lives. Several times a year my mother and father visited Elliott County, “a remote part of Kentucky” http://www.elliottcounty.ky.gov/ where a statue of my cousin Keith Whitley still stands in the towns center. My paternal great grandmother Mable Ison lived on the top of a steep gravel hill in the mountains of Appalachia. At the bottom of the hill stood a red barn for many years. Just to the left of her small wooden cottage-like house was a stone stair path to a chicken coupe that was in use until I was about 14 years old. As a little girl I have memories of Granny inviting me to collect fresh eggs with her. It was always appalling to me the way she slid her hand under the rear of the chicken to take the egg, but Granny knew best the way to collect eggs, so I said nothing. We would take the eggs inside where Granny was already baking home-made biscuits and frying cinnamon apples, potatoes and bacon. Granny would always wear an apron, and she would sometimes sing while she was cooking. Across from the kitchen was a fire place which provided heat to the house from an old wood burning oven in her bedroom on the other side of the wall. The mantle held old photos and various scattered trinkets. Granny was a giving woman, who cared for almost 3 generations of children when they needed a home. My father loyally visited Granny as often as possible, and always told us how important it was to see Granny when we came to Kentucky. Kentucky is where my parents met. My paternal grandfather moved to Cleveland to work for GM after my grandmother passed away of Leukemia. My father and his sisters lived with Granny until grade school age when they moved to Cleveland with their father Elmer Brickey. My mother lived in Columbus with her mother and father, and also lived in eastern Kentucky with her Aunt Cloteen. As a little girl my younger sister only understood we were in Kentucky when arrived at my Aunt Cloteen’s house. Driving up, you could see her trailer from the road, and at the end of a long driveway was a red barn next to the mailbox. A beautiful wooden porch with swings on each end wrapped around her long trailer. My late Uncle Wilferd was often seen rocking on the porch swing as he sat quietly after a long days work. At the center of Aunt Cloteen’s bedroom was a large glass window with a view of a 5-story high cliff across the road. Another cliff was positioned to the left of the trailer, and a steep hill to the right. As a little girl my cousins and I would try to reach the top of the hill, holding on to trees and catching butterflies on the way. Aunt Clotten was a thin woman who wore thick glasses and a short hair cut, she smoked cigarettes constantly and let out a wheezy cough each time she would laugh. There was a small creek next to the house where my city-slicker sister and I would watch our cousins catch little animals.
I’ve memorized many of the landmarks between Cleveland and Sandy Hook Kentucky where we drove so often. My parents loved to travel and we spent a lot of time in my dad’s old grey 2-door hatchback truck, and later my moms black camaro. My dad would tell the same stories each time we drove down Route 1 after crossing the Ohio River into Kentucky. “Girls look, that’s where your dad went to school”, he would shout as we rolled our eyes. Now I’m thankful he repeated it over and over again, because I’ll always remember the place my dad called home.
Why Oh Why Oh Why Oh Did We Ever Leave Ohio?
Each time we crossed the bridge back into Ohio my dad would sing, why oh why oh why oh did we ever leave Ohio?”. I didn’t know this was a song until later in life, I just thought my dad was amazingly Clever and a good rhymer. Kentucky was a different world than the suburban house we drove to in Columbus to visit my maternal grandparents. On the way to and from Kentucky we would pit-stop at Mamaw and Papaw’s house. Mamaw was a hair dresser and her hair was always neatly styled as if at any moment she would receive an invitation to a fancy party. Papaw was quiet and often found listening to talk radio or bluegrass while enjoying a piece of chewing tobacco. My sister and I often spent our school breaks at Mamaw’s house. As a little girl Mamaw would enlist me to sweep up at her beauty shop. I always felt important helping out, and my Mamaw’s friend who I knew as Aunt Charlie would bring me in the back for a break to watch Fantasia while enjoying a snack. Mamaw’s house was always fun, before bed we could go to the kitchen, just she and I, for a bowl of bed time cereal. Mamaw moved to Florida when I was older, and traveled the country for some time, today she and Papaw live in Columbus and wherever she is feels like home too.
The Cleveland Zoo
After a long trip it was always comforting, though, to see the exit sign for the Cleveland Zoo as the car slowed to a stop off the highway. My childhood house is in an urban Cleveland neighborhood west of downtown. Most of the houses are historic colonials, with grassy front yards, and wooden porches. Every weekend my family would pile into the car and race north to Edgewater Park to watch the sunset over Lake Erie. Winter trips to the lake were peaceful, there is no quieter place in the world than next to a large body of frozen water. Next week I’ll visit Lake Erie, and I’ll sleep in the house where I grew up, I’ll sit on my front porch, I’ll drive on familiar highways, I’ll meet with old friends; all in the city I call home, Cleveland.
There’s No Place Like Home
And so on Monday evening, in the Port Authority Bus Terminal, I’ll be wearing my red shoes as I enter the Cleveland-bound Greyhound bus, and once I settle into my seat I’ll be sure to click them together and remind myself, “there’s no place like home”.