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Multigenerational Mom Muses on Twin Toddlers & Twenty-Something Daughters

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Granite and Fixtures and Floors, oh my!

One week till we move in. One. (EEEEEEK!!!)

So much has happened in the last five days. The flooring was laid. The countertops installed. The light fixtures hung.

Y’all… the harmony, the rhythm, the texture of it all.

It’s like a symphony. It’s like some poetic promise was poured through my dreams into a reality beyond beautiful. The perfect notes curled into the perfect chords to create the perfect composition.

So much depth. So much light. So much energy.

I can’t even.

So just look…

So now come all the finishing touches. The rest of the paint, too. (No, that Great Room in the distance of the first picture is not staying yellow.)

And the kitchen backsplash is being laid. And the shower fixtures are being installed. The tub is in place, but not anchored in. The same with the console sink in the powder bath. And the mirrors will be hung and the appliances slid into place.

Well, except for the ovens. The double ovens, scheduled for pickup and install yesterday, are now not coming in until July.

Cue the scratching hiss of a needle on spinning vinyl… The one major hitch in our harmony.

No ovens for at least six weeks.

Thankfully, I’ll have a cooktop on the island. We’ll be doing lots of saucepan suppers. But hey, who bakes in the heat of the summertime in the south anyways?

And as long as I have them in time for a gazillion batches of cookies for the football players come fall, I can take this in stride.

Still, the fact that we move in next Friday — one week from today — with the help of a slew of football players who will be richly rewarded this fall when those double ovens finally do come in — is music to my ears.

The Mystery and Promise of a Fortnight

This past week, the remodel was rolling right along. The cabinets were installed. The kitchen and office, painted. The tile set, the grout, smeared. But then… snags.

The office was painted the wrong color. The sink and cabinets didn’t line up. The couple buying our current house slid another financial contingency our way (an easy hurdle, but scary when it arrived).

All in a single day.

And now the painters have slowed their progress. Too many jobs for them, too little time.

Mike and I walked through last night. To think, in two weeks, we should be settling in. But then, there’s so much still to be done.

I’m doing my best to stay patient. All the things are scheduled – if the schedule sticks. We’re kind of at the mercy of subcontractors.

The ceilings are being painted this weekend. The flooring will be laid on Tuesday of this week. Lighting goes in on Monday. Countertops arrive on Thursday. Plumbing and fixtures hit Friday. Appliance install is at the end of the week, too, along with our new mantel. The rest of the painting, the following week.

It’s happening. But some weeks it feels like wading through sorghum. 

And speaking of slow as molasses, I’ve got to make it through two more weeks of the hardest school year ever. The year that laid claim to my father and aunt will finally be over in another two weeks. The sadness won’t end, but hopefully a shift will occur. A pivot. A pointing toward positive.

In two weeks, a new chapter can begin. Two weeks.

A fortnight.

My favorite, oh-so-British, unit of time. Such a mysterious, promising span. It’s appropriate that I first encountered it inside the pages of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

The term is an abbreviation of fourteen nights. And when I began penning this blog, that’s how many there were until our June 4, move-in-day: fourteen nights.

A promise that after all the nights, comes the day… 

Thank you, God. I’m so tired of the nights. And so much mystery and promise typically does come with the two-week time slots of a fortnight.

Two week notices

Vacation and travel schedules.

The cycles of the moon, from new to full.

From the ping of ovulation to a pair of pale pink lines.

New life springs eternal in so many ways. Here’s to the mystery and promise of a fortnight.

Repainted to be dark and twisty like me ☺️

remodeling is hotter than down below

There’s a giddy little feeling in my belly every time I walk in the door of our remodel. Butterflies flitting; bees buzzing. It’s a bit like falling in love.

Our project has hit the really sexy stage — and at dizzying speeds.

Wet paint. Hung cabinets. Hard granite. Stripped floors. Silken sheens. Phew! It leaves me breathless.

And the kitchen, in particular, makes me swoon.

Two days ago, it stood empty, a mottled mix of drywall mud and tired blue paint, Today, it’s dazzling, simple, clean, and bright. Like salt licks and sugar cubes.

It leaves me drooling..

And then there’s the dark, deep, urbane bronze island. Y’all. I can’t. It’s too gorgeous. Too perfect. Holy hotness! (And the floors and countertops aren’t even in yet!)

So sleek. So long. So girthy.

Then there’s our master bath. The shower lip and tub platform are erected. The niches recessed and waiting. Waiting for the grout to get laid. The fixtures to be put in, turned on.

I’m feeling all tingly inside…

And have I mentioned the newly-installed custom bookcase in the study? The floor-to-ceiling bookcase? Inside what will soon be a dark, moody, north-facing study painted the same deep, urbane bronze as our handsome island in the kitchen?

I feel flushed. Is it hot in here? No? Just me?

I have to confess I’ve never done this sort of thing before, and I’m finding it an endorphin rush like no other. (Well, almost.)

So, y’all — remodeling. I finally get what all the fuss is about.

#remodelingishot

Land of my Father’s Pride

We closed on the last bit of property in my father’s estate today. In April, my husband, boys, and I took a little ride through the land of the pines from Cartersville, Georgia to North Caroline, from there to Virginia, then east from the Cumberland Gap to Johnson City Tennessee.

Along the way, we visited several gaps, including Big Stone Gap, Cumberland Gap, and our primary destination, Fancy Gap.

Virginia is chock full of ’em.

Since I knew what a “thigh gap” was, I found myself wondering if the mountainous ones were sort of the same.

Turns out, a geographical gap is the lowest point between two mountains, providing relatively easy passage for settlers; the other, the anorexia-driven absence of topography on the sexualized female body (and therefore, easier passage).

The two are synonymous. And both are societal low points, as far as I’m concerned.

The land is gorgeous, don’t get me wrong. But not only is Daniel Boone territory chockfull of gaps, it’s also chockfull of rebel flags.

Fancy Gap is nestled between Mitchell Knob and Harris Mountain, an hour’s drive north of Winston-Salem. Back in pioneer times, a trip down and back to the tobacco giant would’ve taken five treacherous days.

So treacherous, in fact, that legend has it a team of mules — one named Peter — was positioned along the pass to pull wagons out of danger. The area came to be known as Peter Pull, and between Dad’s love of mules, the fact that a gap was involved, and the double entendre of his patronym, is it any wonder my long-suffering bachelor father bought property here? (My father’s name — Randy Peters — was oh-so apropos.)

Fancy Gap’s a town whose population is nearly as tiny as its dimensions. In 2010, there were 237 citizens (down from 260 in 2000.) and there are nearly as many stars and bars on porches and posts as there are people.

Which brings me to another piece of this place’s past I uncovered while there — a stream called Yankee Branch. The story behind it is far darker than the humorous Peter Pull. This creek got its name after two rebel brothers slaughtered an encampment of union occupation soldiers on its banks. One brother purportedly wore a Yankee uniform jacket to church every Sunday for the remainder of his years, bullet holes proudly displayed on his back.

Is it any wonder Mike, who is both of mixed parentage and a Damn Yankee, has muscles still aching from the tension, weeks later? Is it any wonder my heart is still aching from this hate-filled heritage held tight a century-and-a-half later?

I even hate using that word. Heritage. It’s how people around here defend that damned flag. I don’t want to celebrate the customs and culture of treason and hate — one that enslaved and dehumanized an entire population. One that continued to refuse rights and deny opportunities to that population for decades after the war, and one that persists in flaunting the hate and privilege that flag promotes from pickup trucks and front porches to this day. Old times there are not forgotten.

But they should be. Or at least not idolized.

Southern Pride is not my kind of pride. Nor was it my father’s, thank God. Still, it’s a complicated inheritance — the property we were there to deal with in the first place, and then the equal parts love and revulsion I feel from being southern born and bred.

I love the flora and fauna here. The accents and cooking. The smiles and sunshine. I do not love the fixation with confederate army relics and the past.

And here, I’ll take my stand.

That past was not some noble, God-fearing kingdom. It was a festering swamp of slavery and manslaughter. It stunk then and it stinks even worse now, after percolating in its own poisonous putrid presumptive self love.

Kind of like my Dad’s trailer…

It’s why we went there in the first place remember? And we found it, sinking into itself at the ankle end of a dogleg gravel road within a mass of fallen leaves, broken windows, coroded beer cans, and moldy siding– the remnants of past seasons, now nothing but decay and detritus. Inside, more shattered glass and cankerous ceiling tiles stewing in a slurry of insulation, rat droppings, and rain.

The closets were open and empty, as were the cabinets in the kitchen. A spongy rug in the den oozed the faint hint of skunk – whether animal or meth aftermath, who knows?  One chair, a folding vinyl one, stood upright and pulled up to a greasy, head-shaped inprint on a pillow atop a murphy desk.

The place had been ransacked who knows how many times by who knows how many people. Even the toilet was upended, a sneer of cold command on its toppled visage.

It’s glory days long gone, nothing of value remains. Round the decay of that colossal wreck, the lonely, lore-filled mountains stretch far, far away.

The inheritance left behind will need to be hauled off and something new built in its place. It’s hardly worth the scrap metal left behind, tarnished and tainted as it is. And honestly, that’s as it should be.

The land is gorgeous though…

Away, away, away down south. In Dixie.

Look away.

Our Hometown’s Heart of Gold

What can I say that hasn’t been said about Trevor Lawrence? Not a thing.   

Still, it’s worth saying that the reason our family — and so many families in this, his hometown — are so proud of him and love him so much isn’t because he’s the football player who was just drafted # 1 overall.

 No, we all love him because of his heart.   

How he pours his heart into his faith, his people, his community, and his sport… and in that order. (The order of priorities that got him trolled recently by social media hate-mongers.)


Because in a world accustomed to egos and bad behavior, Trevor is an anomoly. And people don’t know how to deal with it. They’re so used to celebrating celebrities celebrating themselves, that they don’t know how to handle one who seeks purpose beyond the spotlight.


 But Trevor does just that. Relying on God and his conscience to guide him. Trevor has real conviction and a moral integrity that often takes years to come by (if ever). None of it is an act. This is no finger-point-at-the-sky-for-the-cameras kind of faith, and he is no press-conference-full-of-pomp-and-promotion kind of player.    

There’s a reason he didn’t have major news networks at the high school when he committed to Clemson in 2016 and why he didn’t travel to Cleveland for the 2021 draft yesterday. Hype and hoopla, football and the fans don’t drive him. Love does. God’s love and his heart.  

And we in his community love him for it. How he’s hyper-focused on where he’s going, but hasn’t lost sight of where he came from. How he surrounds himself with folks he can trust and stays loyal to the ones who helped him get where he’s at. 


Our two boys have grown up seeing Trevor play ball. From the practice field to the Friday night lights to the Saturdays in Death Valley, they know Trevor. But they know him for more than the player with the golden arm. They know him for the person with the heart of gold who always has a smile, a hug, a high five, and a “how y’all doing?” when he sees them. 


They know him for his heart. And I would like to think America will get to know him for his heart too. To focus on who he is, not just what he does. Because Trevor Lawrence is so much more than the NFL’s 2021 #1 Draft Pick.


He is a really, really good human ready to accomplish really, really beautiful things, all while slinging a really, really mean football.

two-fingers-on-the-second-hand years old

Tate and Parker are “two-fingers-on-the-second-hand years old!”

Seven. They turned seven on Saturday.

It didn’t feel like that big a deal until I realized I’m almost 55. With seven year-olds.

And it still didn’t feel like that big a deal until after I spent the weekend at a water park. Two days. At a water park. With twin seven year-olds. At almost 55. Surrounded by 20- and 30-something-year-old parents. And did I mention the water park.

And it STILL didn’t feel like that big a deal, even though I was there with my own 30-something daughters while we all ran after their seven-year-old brothers along with my three grandchildren — two of whom are younger than their uncles by 18 months and 3 years, respectively. At a water park: wave pool, lazy river (hardly!),speed-racing slides, hurl-you-ass-backward slides. At 55. (Almost.) Whew.

You know when it felt like a big deal? When Parker told me proudly that he’s now “two fingers on the second hand years-old.” Now THAT’S a big deal. That feels huge. I’m not really sure why.

Where has the time gone?

Wasn’t it just yesterday they scrambled their way out of my belly six weeks early, looking all the world like the most photogenic naked mole rats on the planet, rocking skull caps and feeding tubes? Wasn’t it just yesterday I was a sleep-deprived milk machine, twins hanging off my body, growing faster than mushrooms from middle-of-the-night, near-constant feedings?

Feels like yesterday. As in, I’m still feeling the exhaustion 7 years later. I’m feeling every minute of it. And the water park added to my exhaustion. But it also added to my joy. Because despite the tiredness delivered daily, the twins delivered seven years ago this weekend deliver joy to me in abundance. Daily. Nightly. Yearly. Eternally.

I love seeing them laugh and explore the world around them. I love seeing them grow their way into individuality. They’ve evolved from wrinkly rodents to fiercely independent fellas full of piss and passion. Parker loves Italian sports cars, Trevor Lawrence, and jotting notes in small spiral notepads at bedtime. Tate loves mermaids, Billie Eilish tunes, and every Magic Treehouse plotline ever written.

Despite their vast differences, they have shared passions too. Like their endless supplies of poop jokes, their newfound love of water parks, their long-standing love for their big sisters and their Daddy.

And me. I am blessed with their sweet love too. And their shitty punch lines. Thank God they don’t use THAT word — yet. Though Mike assures me that will arrive in good time too. Just like they arrived — all in good time.

In God’s time.

He knew what he was doing when He blessed me with twin boys at 48. He has faith that I have what it takes, even if my nearly 55-year-old body doesn’t think I do. Even when the energy and patience is siphoned down to the very dregs, He always makes sure more is delivered by way of hugs and snuggles and smiles and joy. He refills the cisterns of my soul with their love so I can handle it all.

All the water parks and sleepless nights.

All the never-ending potty humor.

All the homework and horseplay.

The skinned knees and sibling rivalry.

The fidgeting and farting.

The saltiness and sass (both mermaid AND smart mouth varieties).

With all the things.

Times two. (Pretty sure its way more than doubled. Pretty sure its all the things SQUARED.)

Still, their snuggles and joy are squared too. And that sustains me. Their love (and God’s faithfulness) keeps me keeping up with them. Me and my almost fifty-five-year-old mother’s body and them and their just-turned seven-year-old boy ones — we can do this hard thing.

We can do all the hard things.

my heart is a nesting doll and she’s at its core

She’d come to Oak Ridge to welcome me. Me… the rebel teen and recent cult outcast. She smelled of cigarettes and metallic fizz. (No doubt there was a 2 liter bottle of Tab between her knees.) We were sitting on my grandmother’s concrete stoop, a kitten named Pony between us. The sun warmed our shoulders as she poured her heart into mine.

This woman smelling of tobacco and Tab soda was my Aunt Ann, and this was the most time I’d ever spent with her. How had I lived so long without truly knowing her?

She was a wizard of warmth and wisdom. It rose from her being in whispers, soothing and soft and slowly sifting into you, until you also felt wise and warm just from being near her.

We talked for hours that early May day, pink primroses nodding their heads as whipped cream clouds floated overhead, and my love for her and the entire Peters clan settled like seeds in my soul.

I’d always been a part of them, but now I was deep in the midst of them. Transplanted, grafted to their stalk by coming to live with their matriarch — our matriarch — my grandmother. And I was all in.

It was the best, most glorious thing that ever happened to me. I think that’s why my core aches so when I lose one.

When my grandmother died, a sore rose on my chest, directly above where my heart sits. It wept and ached, a simmering wound that lasted for months. Eventually, it faded, but the pruning scar still shimmers silver in the right light.

And then when my father died — before we knew he’d passed — my heart bled into a backache that bloomed the night it happened and didn’t subside until we found him the next day.

And now Ann. My precious, beloved, my dearest Aunt Ann.

Yesterday morning out of nowhere, while baking up banana bread for my boys, that familiar bruised heartache unfolded itself beneath my left shoulder and I knew it was the day. The day I would lose her.

And it was. And my body suffered with hers until she breathed her labored last. The ache in my shoulder subsided, but the ache in my heart will go on forever.

My grafting was so complete on that early May day in the twilight of my 16th year, that I am destined to feel every growing pain, from new blossom to withered vine, on our family’s tree. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

My heart is a nesting doll. There is an ee cummings poem that holds special import in my life and speaks to the love I have for this family I’ve been so firmly grafted to.

i carry your heart

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
                                                      i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

I Wish You a Merry, Mid Century Modern, Swivel-Chaired Christmas

peterschristmasThat old holiday standby – “I’ll be Home for Christmas” — there’s a reason it’s a favorite. Nearly all of us yearn for those Christmas card kinda holidays — those Currier & Ives, picture perfect Christmases from our childhoods. The ones with lights twinkling, presents waiting, family hugging, baking, laughing, snuggling. Those are the ones we remember with fondness.

And as we get older, those kinds get harder and harder to recreate. In part, it’s because families get scattered to the four winds and coming home for the holidays takes a major Christmas miracle.

Take my family, for instance. I have a sibling in Phoenix, a daughter in Dallas, another in Knoxville, aunts and uncles scattered across the Southeast, in-laws in Detroit, and grandparents in Heaven. Only one of the afore-mentioned family members is home  – and it’s the first time for her in five years. So yes, distance makes family reunions impossible.

But I also think it’s because those past Christmases probably weren’t as consummately classic as our memories tend to make them. Pretty sure my grandmother’s house was more Clark Griswold than Norman Rockwell. Regardless, it is what I miss the most at Christmas.

There were uncles and cousins times twenty. There was turkey and stuffing and more. You want jingle and nog? We had plenty, but who cares? No big deal, we had more….

I wanna be back where my people are…

I wanna see, wanna see them dancing – my uncle the hambone, my Grandma the Charleston — while cousin Teresa pounds out carols on the old, rattletrap pump organ and the rest of us cousins twirl endlessly on the mid century modern swivel chair with winged backrest and threadbare upholstery.

This chair was an arm-less dame with a generous lap and endless patience, and we stacked ourselves up and spun round and round till our stomachs – or a cousin — flipped. And then we started all over again.

And while we tripped the chair fantastic, an ancient miniature schnauzer with rotting teeth nibbled hard boiled eggs at the fireplace hearth, and our aunts and mothers baked up a holiday feast worthy of Rockwell legend.

And when we  finally all sat down to eat – all those Southeast-scattered aunts and uncles, and the entire eight cousins, along with the dog, and the grandest dame of them all, our Charleston-dancing, snuff-sniffing, Melungeon-made matriarch — the table absolutely did NOT look like that iconic Saturday Evening Post holiday spread. There was no silver service, no matching white china, no apron-wearing, gray-haired grandparents delivering the glistening turkey to the masses. (My grandfather died when I was scarcely two, and my grandma never basted a butterball in her life – not to mention her hair was a deeply dyed, bitumen-black bob.)

No, our table looked more like the Grinch-down-in-Whoville’s final dinner scene. Our spread was scattered across a hodge podge of card tables and end tables linked together in a rickety centipede’s spine. No turned-mahogany matched seating for us. Instead we all bellied up to the banquet in random ladder-back and fold up and no-backed seating and heaped up our plates with turkey and pork tenderloin and cranberries and asparagus casserole and stuffing and dressing for miles.

Elbows rode tables, laughter rode faces, and our family spun straw into gold.

I miss those days and those sounds and those people so, so much.

We have a new matriarch now. And the eight cousins have doubled and quadrupled and scattered to horizons far, far away. And not a one of us is getting any younger. And some of us are nearly as old as our bitumen-bobbed matriarch was way back in those Christmases past.

Which means not many of us are able to gather round rickety card table banquets to rehash the hilarity. But I can still hold out hope. Hope that some time, very, very soon, we can get all the extended Peters back together once again to recapture the merry, mid- century modern, swivel-chaired holidays of our youth.

That is tops – absolute tops — on my grown-up Christmas list.

(Perhaps a Christmas in July this year, Santa? Whaddaya say?)

 

 

 

Layer Cakes and Legends: My Apocryphal Appalachian Roots

Today I baked up a blackberry jam cake — a triple layer one, coated in caramel, and dusted in roasted pecans. And for some nutty reason, it reminded me of my grandmother.

Not because she used to bake blackberry jam cake. (She didn’t.) Nor because she loved to bake at all. (She didn’t.) There was only one cake she ever made, and she made it every fall for Thanksgiving — a German Chocolate Layer Cake, triple-stacked to heaven and beyond. It defied natural laws.

Baking my own triple layer cake this morning somehow conjured up my grandmother’s spirit. Out of nowhere, a warm fragrant memory slipped in — a peppery whiff of Scotch snuff amid baking layers — and I was instantly transported back. Back into the warm half-circle spotlight of her bifocals, where she peered up at me with love and adoration… and then demanded I write down a select few of her stories.

Yup. Demanded. And Grandma always gets her way — even from beyond the grave. (Compromise was never her middle name.)

And she really was quite the storyteller — I like to think that’s where I get my passion for words — and her tales were always tall. As impossibly tall as her German Chocolate Layer Cake.  She told some doozies, but there was always truth in the pudding, er, batter… batter thick and sweet and loaded with flavor.

Her stories infused every room in her small house. They found you in every corner. You couldn’t escape them. Through the darkness of night, she was sitting on your mattress while you slept, telling you a story.  Through the closed bathroom door, you were sitting on the toilet while you shat, she was telling you a story. No exaggeration.

Her stories were a never-ending narrative. I’d heard them a thousand times. I thought I could recite them backwards. They were a constant. Like a beating heart. Always there. Always.

Until they weren’t.

I took them for granted. I tuned them out. I never wrote them down. I really wish I’d recorded them, old cassette ribbon winding like stretched caramel from one receptacle to another to help me transcribe her words from one era into another, today. Alas, I did not.

But this past summer, my family celebrated her oldest son — my Uncle Pal’s — 80th birthday. My two aunts and my father were there, too, rounding out her initial genetic contribution to this world.

The four sat atop a green, overstuffed sofa and held court, flipping through old pictures and regaling the second and third generations with Grandma’s tales of our Appalachian roots.

peters

Most of the stories I recalled immediately… their familiar cadence returning to me like skip rope chants learned in my childhood:

My grandma the buxom beauty — her breasts swelling so large when she contracted mumps at twelve that they never returned to what she considered a respectable size. She and her sister Margaret would mash them tightly in scarves, trying to achieve the ideal body image of her age — flat-chested flapper girl — to no avail.

grandma

My grandma the axe murderer — her one and only victim, a Harley Hog my dad bought knowing she hated them. Her brother had almost died on one; her son would not have the same opportunity. The Hog died instead, a quick, violent death from hatchet-strike to the fuel tank. Dad wept as his full-fendered baby girl bled out in front of him… the original chopped Harley.

My grandma, the exile — sent in her early twenties to country music legend Mama Maybelle Carter’s house, her childhood friend and neighbor. My great grandfather sent her away to keep the clambering boys away from the self-proclaimed prettiest girl in five Virginia counties. (Humility was also not her middle name.) Grandma spent an entire summer dancing the Charleston, little June Carter running between her flashing legs while Mama Maybelle scratched her guitar.

IMG_1149

Keeping Grandma away from the boys worked for a while, but she finally managed to run off and marry the love of her life at the ripe old age of 25 — an old maid by Appalachian standards. Grandpa was years younger than she was, also unheard of in that time period.  (I guess I get that from her, too.)

My aunts and uncle also told us a few tales I’d maybe heard, but had long since forgotten.

Like the seven-foot tall distant relative named Pleasant who was so small when he was born they could fit his head in a tea cup, and who slept in a Singer sewing machine drawer next to his parents’ bed. Pleasant grew up to be large and in charge, and was famous for once throwing a man out a second-story speak easy.

I also heard about an ancestor who, at 98-years young, could stand and do a somersault in the air. Backwards. That’s a back tuck, by the way. Cheerleaders drool for that kind of skill. He could do it at 98. Unfortunately, no one remembered his name.

But a whole lot of other names were remembered in my uncle’s living room this past July — names summoned from my grandmother’s looping cursive, scrawled in her black-papered memory book. Names like Viney and Velma, Tom and Tate, Willie and Chapman, and Emmy and Spencer, and Pleasant, of course. (I kind of wish I could have another kid, simply so I could name him or her Pleasant. No, scratch that. I’ll leave that up to my girls…)

Those names, written in Grandma’s looping penmanship, lassoed us all and pulled us back — back to our childhoods and beyond. Back to the crags and coal of the Virginia mountains. Back to the looping, sprawling deep-settled roots of our family tree.

The tree itself juts high and strong these days, with limbs spread far and wide. From London to Phoenix, her descendants are scattered like leaves in haphazard drifts of color and contrast in a beautiful, autumnal haze. We, indeed, have a glorious family tree. And her stories — our stories — deserve to be told.

* * *

Yes, today I baked up a blackberry jam cake — a triple layer one, coated in caramel, and dusted with roasted pecans. And for some nutty reason, it conjured my grandma, who channelled my fingers and hijacked my blog  — to write about an Appalachian beauty with a penchant for layer cake and a story or two thousand to tell.

My guess is, she isn’t quite done with me yet.

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