OPINION: MY MEDITATIONS: Yearning for our roots

May 9—With age comes genuine reflection. Even I, headed straight for middle age with my youth in the rear-view mirror, have come to accept this natural order of things. As we age, so many of us yearn for our roots. This yearning follows us as we move toward the other half of our lives, the half where age is marked in forehead wrinkles and gray hairs and not only the passing years on the calendar.

I have always felt that Appalachians view our roots more steadfastly than most. There is a sort of understanding that lives in our heritage that our roots never really leave us, not even when dug out of the proverbial ground upon which they were sown.

In August 1896, my great-grandmother Carrie Lunetta Brock was born. She married George (Cap) Parman days before her 18th birthday and would go on to have 13 children with Cap. I am told she was barred from entering local shooting competitions because she always took home first prize. When I ask my dad, Ken Wilson, what he remembers of the indomitable woman that was his grandmother, I can hear the smile in his voice when he talks about her drinking whiskey at his wedding in 1983 — a time when alcohol sales were decades from being decriminalized in Laurel County. I gather that Miss Carrie was unrelenting in her love for her family and unwillingness to back down from any challenge thrown her way — alcoholic beverages included, even at almost 90 years old.

For the duration of the 1960s and into the '70s and beyond, Carrie penned a column that found its home right here in The Sentinel Echo with a title the same as the one at the top of this article. As an avid writer myself, I feel a kinship for this ancestor of mine and our shared love of the written word. She wrote of the simple life of Appalachians, emphasizing the hard work of her people and the importance of family togetherness.

Like Carrie, I've always been proud to be Appalachian, to come from a long line of people who did not let days pass without their hands in the dirt and their backs bent against the beating of the sun as they worked. These were the folks who worked hard, but loved with a fierceness beyond the sweat of their brow. Family was celebrated, protected, and fervently cherished. It is these ideals that have been passed down through generations.

It makes one wonder at the notion of what else is passed down to our children. I do not have my father's eyes, but I do share in his unending pursuit of knowledge. I didn't outgrow my own mother in inches, but I did inherit her love of cinema and art. Likewise, my oldest son does not possess his grandfather's eyes, but yet it is him I often catch walking with his head down, studying the ground with hands behind his back, fingers interlaced, just as my grandfather, Bill Wilson, always did.

I did not know Carrie in her living years, but I feel I know pieces of her now. They are reflected in pieces of me, even in the simple act of reviving this very column she began decades ago. In my ceaseless study of my Appalachian heritage and upbringing, it is clear to me that it is not only the genetic material we inherit from our ancestors. With our roots so tangibly felt in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains from which we draw our cultural moniker, it is interesting to see these ideas reflected in the youth that rise from the generations that came before them. I wonder if they too will one day look back in search of their beginnings. If so, they will find me here, in The Sentinel Echo, pondering the very idea myself. Just as Miss Carrie did.

Sarah Wilson Gregory is a Laurel County native and 9th generation Kentuckian. She can be reached at sarahwilsongregory@gmail.com.