I hail originally from the mid-south, from a small town on the outskirts of a medium sized town with both midwestern and southern sensibilities and food influences. Kentuckians love a good hot dish as much as any Minnesotan, and grits for breakfast (preferably topped with sorghum m’lassas) as much as any Mississippian. One of the things I loved best about the folks in my home state is the way people visit with each other, without agenda. If you stop in, you will be offered a drink and a snack, and you will be expected to sit down and visit awhile. Folks just aren’t in a big hurry there, and that is something I miss. People don’t double-book the way my generation seems to even here in laid back ole Portland. And the best thing about the visit is if you pay attention you invariably come away with an absolutely hilarious anecdote….usually told in the best straight man dead pan manner you can imagine. My father’s cousin who is one of the most genteel old-school-proper women I know tells hands down the BEST story about having a hummer dropped in her cornfield by the local National Guard….but you will have to hear that one from her. The lesson there: don’t underestimate Anybody.
I have been thinking a lot about family lately….which has brought up some amusing memories of things I have learned from my parents, my father in particular. Now, I love my father like the sun, and he is one of the people I admire most in the world. One of the hardest things about becoming an adult for me was discovering that he was a fallible human being, just like everyone else. (Being a daughter I am afraid I figured this out about my mother somewhat earlier). He taught me to love horses, and to ride. He let me have the ice cubes out of his bourbon on the rocks at a very tender age. He taught me how to drive a stick, and line up the center of the hood of the Suburban with the edge of the road to keep in my lane, and to hitch and back a trailer. I am pretty sure I get my fondness for large goofy dogs from him as well. Anyway, like many men, my father could never find his wallet, and somehow expected my mother and occasionally us kids to know where he might have left it. He was also somewhat at sea when it came to tools and fixing things. As a result, we had a garage door that did not function properly, and if you wanted it to stay open, you had to prop up the lift mechanism with a block of wood or other handy object. One fair spring day, my father needed to prop the garage door, and couldn’t find anything handy, so he used his wallet. Lawns were mowed, children were pried out from in front of Saturday cartoons and delegated various weed wacking and stick removal duties, lunch came and went, the weather stayed fine, the garage door stayed open. The wallet of course, went missing, and despite 5 or 6 people’s best efforts, could not be found. After a few days (this was in the late 70’s or early 80’s, a gentler time) Dad gave up and canceled his cards and replaced his driver’s license and bought himself a new wallet. Months later, perhaps even as late as the next fall, the weather started to turn nasty, and Dad decided he should shut the garage door to keep the wind from blowing leaves and such into the garage. Voila, the wallet was found!
So here I am in middle age, and I too have days where I can barely remember my name, much less where I last left the car keys. I don’t have children, so I will have to leave it to my nieces and nephew or perhaps if I am lucky my step grandchildren to tell amusing anecdotes about me someday. And I raise a glass of good bourbon whiskey with a splash of branch water (a concoction with a long history of generating many a fine anecdote), to my parents: to my father back in Kentucky, and to my mother who is now gone but whose spirit I am sure lingers about the sand bars and beaches of New England. I love you.