Most every July of my childhood, Dad drove our family to Kentucky for vacation. The summer he couldn’t leave his barbershop, Dad dropped Mom, my sisters, and me off at the Detroit bus station. In Ohio, we boarded a train to Williamson, West Virginia. That meant a two-day trip to the place Mom called “home.”
The pull of blood to Peter Creek ran deep in my mother’s soul.
It began with a phone call from Granny. “Sadie, the garden is in. When ya’ll comin’ in?”
Not once did Granny’s green beans, tomatoes, and corn fail to draw her only daughter back to her table.
Mom washed, ironed, and packed our clothes. She carried empty canning jars up from the basement fruit cellar and put them in the trunk of Dad’s red and white 1956 Chrysler.
I stood on the hump in the backseat and watched the city disappear. With his arm resting in the open window, Dad and his cigarette drove through Ohio, the flat and boring state with countless cornfields.
My father knew the shortest distance between our house in Warren and Granny’s porch in Phelps. After several vacations, I learned some landmarks. Then, lo and behold, he’d find another shortcut to shave off a few miles and minutes.
Point of a man’s pride. Since he preferred to drive after a day’s work, I’d find my spot in the back seat window after dark. I’d watch the headlights of cars behind us, and the red taillights in the other lane. Sometimes I’d awake in front of Granny’s house before sunrise.
I’d climb her front steps in that fogging feeling of travel, her generous bosom waiting at the door to welcome us. Mom led my older sister and me to the basement bed where we slipped between clean sheets.
We woke to the scent of bacon, biscuits, and fried eggs. Fried apples and potatoes. After breakfast, Mom let us loose to play with the neighborhood kids. How I loved to chase Paul Ray and Buddy Boy.
Sixty years later, my husband and I take I-75 to Lexington and our hotel room. Next morning we sit down for a Cracker Barrel breakfast, then groom Mom’s gravesite. Later, for the first time, we visit Uncle Tab, one of two remaining McCoy patriarchs, in an assisted living facility.
From Lexington, the Mountain Parkway carries us to US 23 south to Peter Creek where Uncle Herm, Uncle Tab’s older brother, waits. We walk Uncle Herm’s garden. He talks about what crop “didn’t do no good” this summer.
The pull of blood runs deep in a niece’s soul.
We visit Matewan, West Virginia, where my mother delivered me February 21, 1949. We dine and reminisce in a restaurant owned by a distant cousin.
For old times’ sake, we drive US 23 through Prestonsburg, Louisa, and Ashland, Kentucky before we cross the Ohio River into Portsmouth.
Dear Reader, without a GPS or effort to shave a few miles and minutes, we look for landmarks that remain on our journey home.
Our place where four hens and two kittens wait.
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