I keep a Blue Willow bowl on my coffee table. When people come to my house, they must think it’s full of aging junk. The objects inside—an old lock, a gear shift from a Model-A Ford, hand-forged nails, a tool part I can’t even name—might be worth ten bucks all together, but they mean the world to me. I found them around the farm built by my great, great, great grandparents, on land where my grandpa was raised.
Every few days I reach into the bowl and pick up on of these trinkets, rub my fingers across its pitted surface, and I swear I can smell hay curing, see the farm’s cattle-peppered hillsides rolling back toward the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Friends from Appalachia seem to understand. When I explain that the bowl holds pieces of home, most nod and tell me about things they’ve carried from mountaintops and hollers, the places they got their starts.
This week, I asked a few of them to share their mementos with everyone here, and they sent these lovely photos along with stories, telling us why the objects are special.
Putting them all together, I’m reminded that we’re hardly alone. For centuries, folks have migrated out of Appalachia, and I suspect a lot carried pieces of home with them.
Maybe you have too. If you ever left the region, did you take little tokens, objects that transported you back to the mountains?
If so, we’d love to see them. Please share photos on Facebook or Twitter and include the hashtag #mypiecesofhome. You can email me images too, and I’ll consider them for a future post here. My address is revivalist at-symbol therevivalist.info.
I keep a lot of little things from West Virginia here with me in my Iowa house, among them are bones and glass. Growing up surrounded by cattle farms, the sight of sun-bleached cattle (or other animal) bones was very common, I’ve brought with me to hang on the wall of my office a cow skull, a raccoon skull and a little diorama that my fiancé Matt made for me with a butterfly and joint bone from a cow! I also have a collection of glass bottles salvaged from the old dump pile at the back of my family’s property.
Mesha Maren, Iowa City, Iowa
From Alderson, West Virginia
This is my great-grandmother’s teapot from my mother’s father’s side. No matter your relation to her, everybody called her Mom. She spent almost her entire life in the Tennessee Valley just north of Chattanooga in the little burg called Hixson, which is now a suburb. Back home, my mother still has handmade patchwork quilts, and a hand made stuff dog and teddy bear that Mom made for me as a baby.
Jason Terry, Washington, DC
From Chattanooga, Tennessee
My dad and I found this paddle on the Buffalo River, a beautiful waterway that streams through the Ozarks along the Missouri-Arkansas border. I was thirteen and we had just bought the canoe, a bright purple beast of a thing my dad would load on his pickup anytime I’d ask him to take me out. I loved, love, those Saturdays with my dad, and as he ages now, faces a current battle with cancer, I’m glad I have this paddle in my room, hanging above my bed. It’s followed me, like a river might, to every apartment I’ve lived in, from Springfield, Missouri to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to now Washington, DC.
D. Gilson, Washington, DC
From Nixa, Missouri
(While from our neighboring mountain range, the Ozarks, D.’s story was just too sweet to omit.)