Going back to your roots

Published 11:00 pm Friday, January 3, 2014

Around the New Year, everyone around me always makes New Year’s resolutions. Now, I was never much one to make New Year’s resolutions. I always figured that if you wanted to change something in your life, you might as well change it right away and not wait for January.

But, this year, something felt a little different. Maybe it was because I finished college or maybe because I had finally turned 21, but something felt out of place in my life. I felt a yearning for something I had never felt before.

Growing up in Pike County, I have always felt like a bit of an outsider. My family comes from Virginia, not Alabama. Most of my friends in high school lived within an hour or two of their extended family and could easily visit their grandparents or cousins whenever the mood struck them.

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My family, well, it took to the wind. I have family all over the country: Indiana, Tennessee, South Carolina, Idaho, New York and Virginia. I always envied my friends who could visit their relatives without much planning. Because of how far spread out my family is, the best we could normally hope for is a family reunion during the summer or at Christmas.

That’s one of the great things about Pike County. The community is so close-knit that people normally don’t move away. Generations grow up in Pike County and live here their entire lives. Grandparents get to see their grandchildren grow up, brothers and sisters are able to stay in touch and kids are never without an older role model. It strikes me as the way the world should be.

So, when I sat down to come up with a resolution this year, I decided to take a page out of Pike County’s book and try to reconnect with my roots.

My family is originally from Carroll County, Virginia, which, oddly enough, is a lot like Pike County. The two counties have similar populations and levels of economic development, and both are rural counties about an hour away from any major city.

Carroll County seems a world apart, though. Every summer, my two brothers and I pile in my dad’s car and make the 10-hour drive up to southwest Virginia.

Carroll County is nestled in the rolling hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains that run through Virginia and West Virginia. The mountains get their name from the thin fog that hangs over the peaks and spreads itself across the valleys in between the hills. When the sun hits that fog just right, the fog turns blue, and the mountains look like little islands popping out of the ocean.

Every time we pass over that initial peak and head in to Carroll County, I look down at the valley below, and the sight takes my breath away. The blue fog is slowly moving across the valley floor, concealing the city beneath. Having grown up in the Wiregrass, I don’t ever think I’ll get used to being more than 500-feet above sea level, but it’s not just the height that affects me.

There’s something special in the soil where your family is from. Once a few generations have lived and died in one place, that soil starts to sleep in to your family’s blood. The soil, the land, the people, they become a part of you.

Though I have never actually lived in Carroll County, I feel that connection to the soil. I think families who have lived in Pike County for generations must feel it too. I think that’s why so many families choose to stay here.

So, in this upcoming year, I’m going to try to get back to my roots. I challenge you, my fellow Pike County residents, to do the same.