I woke up with the song Coal Miner’s Daughter in my head. I’m actually a coal miner’s granddaughter from southeastern Ohio. My coal miner was actually from Kentucky which helps me to understand the migration described in Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance.
I’ve had a pleasant week sifting through my mother’s dusty treasures in preparation for a yard sale. I found matching baby t-shirts printed with my name and my brother’s name above a map of Ohio. I soaked them for three days in an oxygen whitener. My brothers came out pretty good; mine is still yellowed and stained. Story of my life. My question to my mother, “who took us to the Ohio State Fair?” Since she didn’t remember that anyone would be crazy enough to take a 1 year old and a 2 year old to the Ohio State Fair, we decided that the shirts were a gift from my paternal grandparents, which included the aforementioned coal miner. They loved fairs and festivals, especially if there was country music. I remember seeing Flat and Scruggs at a county fair one summer. I think I was 8 or 9. I spent at least two weeks each summer going wherever my grandparents were going and doing whatever they were doing. This was in the days before the time that kids became the center of the universe. I happily tagged after them and learned about their lives. My grandmother and I crocheted afghans, wallpapered the living room, cleaned and canned corn and tomatoes and green beans. She helped me make my entire 7th grade wardrobe, including one dress that I patched from scraps of leftover fabric and feedsacks. My grandfather thought it was important that we learn to shoot a gun and snap a chicken’s neck.
There was always something interesting going on. When I’d had enough excitement, I’d go back to my maternal grandmother’s house, up the hill on the same street where everything was calm and orderly. We would walk around her flower garden while she gently pinched the coleus tops, and taught me the names of her other favorites, snapdragon, dahlia, geranium, begonia.
Her wisdom was captured in two wooden plaques hung in the dining room which read: “We have one two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak” and “We get too soon old and too late smart”.