I come from a place whose roots are scattered into more categories than one could ever expect. Some know it as a place where their toes were toughened under the dirt and rocks they stomped over as they ran from place to place. These are people whose memories are full of sunkissed days at stale lakes, hair smelling of campfire, and nails caked with a day full of disregarding beauty standards. Their sunny smiles broadened by the satisfaction of catching a fish worth some bragging rights. These core memories are similar but ever so slightly different from another area of my home.
Then we have the women of Appalachia whose bones are strong with a culture far too few people care to admire. I imagine they have recipes that speak of their toughness and ability to love and be loved by land which broke their backs. I know the same borders as some of these women but I claim no expertise over their Kentucky experience. There’s a thickness to those hills that makes it difficult to speak of because there are too many layers of pain, unspeakable beauty, and resilience I wish never to maintain.
It is my belief that one only has to be from Appalachia to be innately loved by the land. There is a give-and-take relationship those mountains have for their people. Like The Giving Tree, Appalachia gave and gave of itself until it had nothing left. Unlike that tragic tale, the people of the land felt and saw this pain as they were taking from themselves. Their story hasn’t ended yet though. I see the hearty love in the marrow of Appalachians bones driving them to nurture what can feel like the impossible. None of these are my Kentucky experiences. I was formed by a different kind of Commonwealth, one I think few people outside the Bluegrass would expect.
My Kentucky has always been full of the beauty of immigration, exposure and admiration of differences. Growing up I had friends from everywhere with differences that were accepted without the need for diminishment.
I was raised by a village of families who saw me simply as a child deserving of love. Depending on the house I was in, I lived by a range of different rules. Some homes I didn’t enter without taking my shoes off. I did that knowing I would never see the amount of work that went in to keep that home as a reflection of themselves. I learned through this humility that love can live thick in the quiet of an ear willing to listen.
There were mothers and fathers I didn’t dare leave out a “yes, sir” or “yes, ma’am,” knowing I was saying I love you and thank you for taking care of me and your children who show me the meaning of community.
Others I put my everything into soccer drills with the whole family, knowing this quality time was worth every drop of sweat. I’d wait my turn to headbutt the ball right back into the tosser’s hand and run back to the back of the line ready to try again. I didn’t have to wait for a nod of approval to feel cared about. That love showed up outside every day running drills for soccer and organizing street kickball games.
My feet were tanned by running across blacktop as fast as I could to beat my friends to the pool. I was surrounded by the acceptance of all religions and a father who had a rosary, prayer rug, and Buddhist statue. I never questioned who it was appropriate to love because the adults around me never thought to show me hate or judgment for the queer community. It wasn’t necessarily a conscious decision, it just didn’t make sense to think less of a person for whom they love or their struggle to become a truer version of themselves.
Some of the adults in my life were buried under weights that don’t lift easily. Where they faltered in giving me what I needed others stepped up, creating the stunning mosaic that is me.
Buy my dog a treat
This is just another way to support me and an excuse to put up a picture of my adorable dog.