Growing up I couldn’t wait to be of age to leave West Virginia. I was lucky enough to have parents that loved vacationing and going new places. They took me to nearly every state in the US, almost all of the Carribbean and sent me to many countries in Europe. I remember hating the negative connotation associated with our state. (Yes, we have our teeth. We’re not married to our Brother or Sister’s. We also wear shoes.. for the most part.) As sad as I am to admit it, I was embarrassed to be a West Virginian.
I envied the growth of other states, always getting in the best stores, sports arenas, having beaches… I complained that we never had anything to do here. I came of age to leave and had the chance to move away for college. I chickened out. I ended up attending Marshall University, our local college. (Go Herd!) My plans then became, “graduate and leave”. Time came and went. I hated the thought of leaving my friends and family. I had a child and wanted him to grow up in a safe community. I knew West Virginia could provide this. I still stayed.
Over time, my opinion of my state began to change. I guess aging has made me appreciate the little things. Today, the drug epidemic is getting out of control. Finding good paying jobs here is becoming near impossible. But the people, they are still so kind. Genuinly kind. The “help your neighbor type”. Come to visit or move away. You will not leave this state without that impression. I promise you.
I think back to growing up splashing around in a creek, picking honeysuckle and exploring the woods. Boy, was I blessed. We actually get to enjoy all four seasons here. Learning that many people haven’t played in the snow still shocks me! Sometimes it does a soul good just to escape the city lights for a chance to stare at the stars.
One thing you cant argue against, WV, she’s a beaut’! West Virginia’s number one attribute has always been her beauty. Her mountains and sunsets are some of God’s best artwork. She’s filled with waterfalls, valleys and rivers. Caves and animals. The changing leaves in the fall are enough to leave you breathless. I’ve claimed before that my favorite color is October. This is wholeheartedly why. John Denver’s “Country Roads” never fails to bring a smile to my face. And, I’ll admit, I still get a giggle when out-of-towner’s dont realize that WV is a state of it’s own. (We, in fact, did separate from Virginia.) Regardless, looking back, I realize the things I hated when I was younger are so silly. All trivial misconceptions from uneducated people.
You stole my heart, WV. In the best sort of way. I’m sorry it took me so long to appreciate you. I can’t imagine life anywhere else. Happy 155th Birthday, Mountain Momma!