Monday, August 24, 2015

Where I come from

Where I come from, the southern most county of West Virginia, when you met someone, your first question to them was "where are you from?"

Where I've lived since 1980, when you meet someone, your first question is "what do you do?"

That tells you most of what you need to know about 'where I come from.

"Location, location, location" was the Appalachian mantra. Where you fit into the geography of life was the beginning of a relationship. "What you did" was secondary...not even secondary, rather beyond importance.

Knowing where your roots sunk into the mountains was remarkably telling. I would then have known who 'your people' were and who lived around you and what your universe looked like. I would begin to 'know' you as soon as I could place you in the landscape.

People, where I come from, were defined by which mountain, which valley, which creek they lived near. It was in our DNA to seek out location as a way to begin to know another person.

"Oh, you're from Filbert," meant the person was most likely a second or third generation immigrant from, most likely Italy. "Oh, you're from Spencer's Curve" meant the person was generations after generations a Scots/Irish resident of Appalachia.

When people asked me where I was from and I answered "Anawalt" they knew I was from a town (if you can call 500 people a 'town') and that I was probably of a merchant background or a teacher was in my family. People in Anawalt, everyone knew, didn't work in the mines because Anawalt wasn't a mining camp. Being from Anawalt meant your family sold stuff or taught school. And it was true.

Amazing what knowing where someone was 'from' could tell you about them. Ethnicity, employment, educational level--all that quickly. My father 'sold stuff' and my mother was a teacher. I was the quintessential resident of Anawalt. Knowing where you were from told people what you "did for a living".

It's much more complicated here in New England. Being from Cheshire doesn't tell you a damn thing about your ethnicity or employment or education. All 'being from Cheshire' says is that you're probably upper Middle Class or you couldn't afford to 'be from Cheshire'.

Appalachian 'location' is much richer and more telling than other places.

(This is my third post about being an Appalachian in the last couple of weeks. I need to ponder why that's so obviously on my mind. Most of the time I don't think of it unless someone catches something in my accent and asks me if I'm southern....)

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About Me

some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.