Pocahontas County, West Virginia, photo by Wyatt Green
"I remember the drive to West Virginia from the Pittsburgh airport, the impossible corkscrew of the roads and the dented iron railings that lined them. I remember how dense the leaves of August were, how dark it could look in the holler even at noon. I remember the metallic scent of land raped by industry and how it rattled your teeth. I remember bony dogs running free down the highway, clotheslines strung heavy with overalls, the sound of gravel under the tires, the cool of the air, the supple dapple of the light, and how my grandmother's voice rose and sang like a bell above it all as she sang on the drive home, the piercing white clarity of her song lending the whole worn scene a delicious flavor, a purpose.
"I wanted to go anywhere my grandmother was, because my grandmother sang songs and made men blush and fed me graham crackers with honey and showed me how to walk in heels and how to braid my hair and how to be more than I thought I was in the world.
"Grandmother, my braid is uneven!"
"A man on a flying horse wouldn't see that."
"From her, I learned how to tell when a cake is cooked, how to cock my head to appear interested in someone else even when I wasn't, how to make macrame plant holders, how to tell a joke, and, during one brash moment in a truck stop ladies' room, how to smoke gracefully.
"Exhale like you're bored. And look up. Always look up." *
A friend asked me this evening, in a moment of miscommunication, "Your grandmother is still alive?", and in that moment I was suddenly and painfully reminded that she is not. I hate those moments. And I am never prepared for how much I miss her.
*Excerpt from Beauty Before Comfort, by Allison Glock, published 2003.