Where I Grew Up

I'm writing this from home. I'm not talking about where most of my stuff is or where I sleep most nights, but "home home"--how I'll always refer to southwestern Virginia. My flight back to Seattle tomorrow was canceled, so I have an unplanned day with Mom and Dad. The extra time is wonderful and gives me a chance to write about some of the things I've been mulling over while I'm still here.

May has been unseasonably cool this year.

I'm grateful to have been raised in a place cushioned with so much love, and it gets bonus points for being so beautiful. My extended family is large, and most of them are local. I grew up with 12 aunts and 12 uncles, dozens of first cousins, and a handful of second cousins (once removed). Beyond blood relatives, we had a great community in our church, and a few family friends that grew into just plain family.

Where I grew up, our neighbors still send me homemade honey and sourdough bread. The King Kong pinball machine is gone, but their house is always cozy, always shows The Christmas Story and National Lampoon, and always has a backdoor open for a visit. Last summer, I was a bridesmaid for a longtime friend and made an updo appointment with a woman named Beulah. Mistake #1. I didn't plan any wiggle room to undo an updo that was a hybrid old-timey football helmet/challah. Mistake #2. Locked out of our house and with my parents away, I ran to Teddi for triage; she calmed me down, gave me three rounds of shampoo, and eventually laughed with me, then she curled and pinned my hair into something that resembled neither pastry nor protective headwear. They're the kind of people who always have your spare house key, always take care of your cat when you're on vacation, and often leave a loaf of bread or a box of Peeps on our porch or in our mailbox.
Bobby pins: 84
Cans of hairspray: 1.5
Where I grew up, my aunts still tell me I'm "awfully pretty" even if I've gone six months without a proper haircut. There are usually babies to snuggle, and if they're big enough, they get "wooled," or tickled. Heddie brings the best care packages when I'm sick, NaNa babies me the most, and Sissy combines graceful selflessness with a wickedly sharp sense of humor. I've been gifted recipes older than FM radio technology, well-worn iron skillets, cherished jewelry, the most beautiful coffee cups and a matching bowl, a love for gravy, and the heaviest quilt my grandmother pieced together from scraps of Easter dresses and Christmas suits she sewed for her kids.

Where I grew up, we imagined circus acts performed solely on hay bales, and spent our summers crafting adventures in places with kid-given names like Pine Tree Palace and Kudzu Kingdom. We borrowed the biggest stainless steel bowl from our grandmother's kitchen and made stew from things we found growing around the river. We learned that poke berries stain almost as badly as walnut hulls. Our Thanksgivings are homemade apple butter in a shockingly authentic copper pot, with an equally authentic stirring stick, and a silver dollar in the bottom of the batch to keep the apple butter from sticking. Besides soups, turkey sandwiches, and finger foods, they're a school bell, and they're shooting the 12-gauge and the .357 Magnum at milk jugs and pieces of guttering.

Where I grew up, we take the energy saved by dropping Gs and spend it on rolling vowels around on our tongues, like coating a cookie in sugar before baking. We sit a spell, mention when it’s coming a storm, and bless their hearts. We like our windows down and our music up. We float the river with inner tubes and a Styrofoam cooler of Dr. Enuf.

Where I grew up, Mom will spend the day in the kitchen making our favorite foods and  Dad will clean up the messes. They’ll take me shopping and out to eat. We’ll spend a lot of time at our cabin on the farm, a home away from home with the best shower in the world. (Two shower heads! It’s so intense!) Even the kitchen sink is inviting; we now have a pair of “lizard gloves” to evacuate uninvited guests. 
"I heard there were burgers here tonight...?"
We get our pick of what to do and where to go, even though it doesn’t really matter--just the company does. She’ll do our laundry before we leave and he’ll take care of all my luggage, even though we leave for the airport at 4am. I’ll have a suitcase full of clean clothes, and a lunch of watermelon, baby carrots, and chocolate cake (extra icing!) for the plane. 
The farm, as seen from here:
My US Airways flight was canceled, but this flight was much better anyway
Where I grew up, on rare occasions, I sneak in a few minutes in the kitchen and make something new for us; sometimes they're a hit. At Christmas, it was apple pie with ginger. This weekend, it was homemade pizza crusts. Teddi & Ronnie came over, and we ate on the upper deck of the cabin, watched a sunset, and then Dad and I bonded from the seat of his powered parachute. The pizza was good, but home is better.
Tomato sauce, baby portobellos, fresh tomatoes, and goat cheese
Giada De Laurentiis

1 (3/4 oz) package yeast
3/4 c. warm water (baby bath temperature)
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. sugar
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for coating a bowl.

Combine the warm water and yeast in a small bowl and set aside. Let stand for about 5 minutes, until the yeast dissolves. 

Brush a large bowl with olive oil. Mix together the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Add the yeast/water mixture and olive oil until a ball forms. (You may have to add more flour to get the ball to form.) Transfer the ball to a lightly floured surface and knead dough until smooth, about 1 minute, adding flour by the tablespoons if it's very sticky.

Transfer to prepared bowl; turn dough in bowl to coat with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 1 hour. Punch down dough. (Do ahead: Can be made 1 day ahead up to this point. Store in airtight container in refrigerator.) Roll out dough, starting in the center of dough, working outward toward edges but not rolling over them. (I usually partially roll it out on the floured surface, then transfer it to the pan, let it rest for a few minutes, and finish shaping it on the pan.)


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