This immigrant found a home
Added: Tue. May 08, 2012 9:51am
Posted in: Living
I was born in Northeastern Pennsylvania and
spent the first eleven years of my life there among my extended family (and it
was extended). Then my parents moved to
Fairmont, West Virginia and took me with them.
It was there that I spend my teens in junior high (now called middle
school) and high school. Maybe it was
because my brain was a bit more developed and was able to retain more of my
memories living there that I still identify Fairmont as home. This in spite of a now failing memory and in
spite of leaving the town immediately after graduating from high school and
after my parents moved some 18 miles away.
I still choke up when I hear John Denver
sing Going Home, Country Roads. I still get a warm glow when I think of the
place where I took giant steps on the path to adulthood. All the friends I had during my school years
are still my friends today. Meeting with
them each fall is like taking a trip in a time machine, taking me back to the
place we call home.
The girls I loved and lost were lessons in
building a strong relationship. The
teachers who labored to instill some knowledge in me remain with me today. Perhaps not all they taught stuck, but the
idea of having to discipline myself and put forth the effort to gain knowledge
remains. The stores my parents took me
shopping are long gone but the memories of those trips make me more tolerant
when I now go shopping. Like then, I try
to make each trip to the mall a kind of adventure, not something to be dreaded.
I had a part time job during my high school
years at what now would be called a small Mom and Pop place, Pat’s Greentop
Restaurant. It was there I learned that
if you apply yourself and not fear hard work, you could advance. I started by peeling 40 – 50 pounds of
potatoes then cut them for french-fries.
When that task was done it was washing dishes and mopping the floors. In time, I was promoted to waiter and
ultimately given the okay to work the cash register, an awesome
responsibility. And I would be remiss if
I didn’t mention those treacherous winding hills where I learned how to
drive. Having mastered the ability to
start moving a car forward with a manual transmission while stopped on a hill I
think made me qualified to handle anything the road could throw in my way.
Fairmont was and has become in my mind an
idyllic town of 25,000 where I grew and flourished. The adults then in my life guided me. My friends and classmates supported me. The adults now are gone, but my friends
remain, as steadfast as they were those many years ago. I’m not quite sure when during my school
years I left Pennsylvania behind and became a West Virginian, but I did. Fortunately, the state seemed to accept me as
one of its own and for that I am thankful.
If someone calls me a hillbilly, I let it pass as coming from someone
who doesn’t understand how special hillbillies are. If I am called a mountaineer, I quietly
accept the compliment.
So now I am in some ways an immigrant;
Pennsylvania is my Motherland, but West Virginia is my home. It is a home of contrasts – beautiful forests
and eye sore mines, friendly people and often mistrusting people, mountain tops
and deep gorges, quiet county towns and towns defined by Wal-Mart’s. But in spite of all that, when I do return to
West Virginia (visits too rare I fear),
I go with the words of that song ringing in my ears.
Roads, take me home
the place I belong
Virginia, mountain mama
me home, country roads
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