By Sierra French Myerson
The maternal family pilgrimage…A trip we've talked about, and planned, and cancelled, and planned, and finally, made happen. My mom and her sister, our Auntie Gayle, were born in Kentucky, and my sister and I had never been. This was the trip for us to see where the family roots of of our mom's maternal side were planted, and to get a glimpse of the southern birthplace that still held a deep embrace for both my mom and her older sister.
The trip began in Michigan where Auntie Gayle lives. My cousin, Michelle, was getting married. A perfect kick-off celebration to get the journey going. It was a beautiful wedding, followed by a gorgeous sunset yacht ride along the river. The cousins, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles drank and danced the night away. We got the partying out of the way, and now we were ready for the road trip portion of the expedition.
Two days after the wedding, my mom, my sister, my aunt and I jumped in a rental SUV, and hit the road to Ashland, Kentucky. Granted, there was a gas station stop, an argument about a AAA drop by, and an electronic's store visit before we were officially on our way, but we were off. The car was packed and we were headed south-bound with my sister in the driver's seat, my mom in the passenger seat co-piloting, and my aunt and I in the back seat giggling like little kids. I'll save you all of the inner workings of a three state car ride with the four us, mostly because it was a memorable keep sake of a trip that I'd like to hold onto for myself, but it was an adventure to say the least.
Truthfully, I was very much looking forward to seeing all of the places that my mom held so dear to her heart: her grandparent's old house, the railroad line that her grandfather conducted, the graves of my ancestors, and the tree that she and her sister played under that still stood tall on the cul-de-sac street where they thrived. But, I was also, selfishly, really looking forward to the food. I had vowed to throw health, diet, and sanity out of the window so long as it welcomed biscuits and gravy, fried okra, grits, bbq, and pie…lots of fresh pie. I couldn't wait to walk the quaint small town streets stopping in one culinary mom n' pop establishment after another.
But, sadly, it was truly a foodstuffs tragedy. As with most industry in our vast country, the food seems to have dried up with it. Aside from a "French" restaurant off of Main Street that got rave reviews from the hotel manager (but was sincerely one of the worst meals I have ever eaten), the only place for us to eat was on the other side of town. Over the bridge lived the little bit of thriving business…a big box store, a mid level department store, and every chain restaurant you can imagine. And, though I was fiendish for southern treats, I in no way mean to come off as trite. It was a shattering discovery. I was certainly anticipating to see a depressed economy in the small town, but I did not expect an empty town. Every independent store front was vacant. Though, as we drove through the residential streets, life was still existing. Nice lives at that. Picturesque family homes, bikes in the drive ways, neighbors waving at one another, the works. A heartening atmosphere, really.
I just have to hope that behind all of the doors of the homes of Ashland, Kentucky, family's are still having their traditional Sunday dinners...sitting together around the table feasting on all of the southern fixings that have been passed down generation to generation. Those same dinners, that to this day, my mom and her sister can still taste.