I’m heading to Ann Arbor later today to spend time with friends and family on my way back “home” to Milwaukee. It is always a bittersweet experience.
I consider my true home to be West Virginia. I was born a Mountaineer and spent my summers there with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. The state is in my blood and heart and soul. The people there are “my people” and the struggles they’ve faced in the past and present weigh on me even though I haven’t lived there since I was a small child. My heart breaks into a million pieces every time I go back and drive by my grandparents farm. Mr. Peabody’s company bought it and will some day turn it into a coal staging area. Just like that damn song Paradise.
My other migratory home is Michigan. I know there are plenty of Appalachian folk who share this dual citizenship – the home of their birth and the home of their parent’s migration for northern factory work. “Coal mines, moonshine or move it on down the line” as the saying goes.
I hated the flatlands of Southeast Michigan. But we did end up near Ann Arbor and that probably saved me – a liberal bastion in the middle of the Midwest. I managed to get a good education and “escape” the grinding poverty and misogyny. A few good teachers and professors (you know who you are) managed to lift me up out of the dark recesses of ignorance and fundamentalism. Thank you for saving my life.
It’ll be nice to visit old friends and stroll around the U of M campus before I head back to my third (and now very temporary) home – Milwaukee. Maybe some day I won’t feel so fractured. Until then, a little bittersweet tonic for my soul is not such a bad thing.