It was a white shed of a house. Sitting up high on the hill, the crest of Donegan Holler.
It was surrounded by a broken wood fence, with mismatched slats. An anagram of history, heritage and benign neglect. Inside, the floors of the different rooms weren’t quite connected and with each threshold you passed, you stepped further away from the world you knew and deeper into the grasp of days gone by. In the front corner of the kitchen stood a washing machine. The old timey kind. With the crank and the clothes and the ringer. Only it wasn’t old timey to them. It was just what they always knew. What had always been familiar to them. In the side bedroom resting you would find my Great Great Grandpa Murphy. He didn’t get out of bed much in those days, but he always had a handshake and some orange marshmallow circus peanuts to offer. And even though I secretly hated circus peanuts, I’d always nod, shake his soft hands and take a few. Because I liked the way it made his eyes smile. And because when you’re six years old, you take your sugar where you can get it.
Soon there would be rummy, and biscuits & gravy, and my cousins and I would run outside and not come back until it was too dark to see. We would swim in the deep green pond, take a ride in whatever homemade go cart my older cousins had concocted, get scraped up, pick ourselves back up. And keep on running. Because there were baby deer to play with and rocks to climb and adventures to be had. And the last thing I wanted, was to be left behind.
It’s been maybe fifteen years since I’ve been back to our family farm in Donegan Holler. I’ve been told that the house no longer stands. But I like to imagine that that mismatched fence is still there. As a marker to history and heritage and days gone by. And that right about now, when a biting January gale cuts in across the mountaintop….you can still hear my cousins and I laughing on the breeze.
Sometimes it’s really hard to reconcile the life I live now, with the girl who grew up in the mountains and the hollers. Not that one is bad and the other good. It’s just hard when I’m writing these stories I guess, not to feel like I’m writing about somebody else. About someone else’s life. And that the two couldn’t possibly be the same. But I think that it’s good to remember. To look back. And to pay honor to where we come from. To have both roots….and wings.
So here’s to all of us who came from so little, but looking back now realize we had so much more
To every one of us who grew up in the mountains, and the hollers, the fields, the farms, the factories and tiny one bedroom apartments everywhere
To anyone who has been knocked down and scraped up. But you’ve gotten back up and kept on running
To each of us who had to start with what we’ve got, and build from there.
Be proud of where you come from. And never forget it. For it is the foundation that has made you who you are.
And if any of you out there feel me on this, I say…..HOLLER back.
*With big thanks to my Aunt Jackie for posting this on facebook, and helping me remember.