In 1989, when my husband and I met , we assumed that we came from different worlds. He grew up in the north, raised by a Jewish mom from the Bronx. I grew up in the south, raised by an Episcopal mom from New Mexico. His family drove into Manhattan to go to Broadway shows. My family drove to southern Virginia to eat my grandmother’s fried apples and bacon and brown sugar pie.
My new beau poked fun at my occasional southern accent. I don’t know – I still think “y’all” is an immensely functional word. It conveys the plural, it’s friendly, and I much prefer it to the “yous” (as in yous guys) heard around Philly every once in a while. But “y’all” amused him. He poked fun at my hometown, the “Capitol of the Confederacy.” True, there is a boulevard in Richmond, Virginia dotted with life sized monuments of confederate generals who face north if they died in battle and face south if they came home from the war. I can see now how the monuments might seem odd to the outsider, not to mention that when I just said “the war,” I meant the Civil War. But it all seemed pretty normal to me. I also recall a joke or two about me marrying my cousin. I’m from Virginia, I would remind him, not West Virginia. (All you Mountaineers out there, please forgive me. I was young.)
All this lead me to believe that two opposites had attracted.
Now I must mention the odd fact that his dad was born and raised in West Virginia. But he had long since become a New Yorker in spirit and those mountains are really tall and as you may have inferred from the snooty comment above, I considered West Virginia about as foreign as New York City. So nothing there disabused the notion that we were from different worlds.
Until this weekend. We, now 17 years married, went to visit his parents at their cottage in the Pocono mountains. This lovely home serves to catch breezes off the lake, to host family reunions and as a repository for family heirlooms. Imagine my shock when I climbed the stairs to our bedroom and found this blanket chest in the hallway:
Why shocked? Well, because I just inherited this blanket chest:
I don’t know anything about antiques. But is it a stretch to think that these two pieces might have been manufactured by the same carpenter? Perhaps bought at the same furniture store? At least in the same area of the country. Certainly at the same time. Turns out that his blanket chest had been his great grandmother’s just as mine had been my great grandmother’s. Turns out that his great grandmother lived in Chatham, Virginia until she moved to West Virginia to be married. My great grandmother lived in Martinsville, Virginia. Turns out that his great grandmother was a Goode, and my grandmother’s best friend was a Goode. That great distance I had imagined between our two families had just shrunk dramatically. No longer were we talking New Mexico to the Bronx. We weren’t even talking Virginia to Pennsylvania. We were talking 25 miles of country road in Southwestern Virginia. How many generations would we have to go back until that 25 miles shrunk even further??
In 1989, when I brought my husband (then boyfriend) home to Richmond to meet my friends and family for the first time, I considered myself a bit of a rebel. I was proposing to marry a yankee. Turns out I might just have gone and married my cousin.