Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Wild, Wonderful Women of West Virginia

Sounds like the set-up for a joke, right? Joke if you must but rest assured we've heard them all...hell, we wrote most of them. Consider this instead, an ode to all of the women from my home state and the impact they've had on my life to date.

I have been blessed throughout my existence to have been surrounded by women. The women in my life from West Virginia are in a class all their own, however. The women in my family were powerful women, not in a physical or social status sort of way, but in their ability to take care of their families through the worst and most trying of times. These were no shrinking violets...they forged ahead against all odds. Frequently, they overcame these odds and in other cases such as my sister Mona's they lost the battle but only after a helluva fight.

My female friends from the Mountain State are a force of nature as well. They are businesswomen, entrepreneurs, artists, musicians, mothers, daughters, aunts and sisters...sometimes all in one package. They feel deeply, are outspoken and opinionated and refuse to simply melt into the background...they are front and center.

These women altogether are the Circle of Life for me in West Virginia. They are family members and friends, both here and no longer with us. Some are mothers of my friends, who then became friends and mothers to me as Kristy's Mom Mary Alice, pictured at right and Barb, Kaki's mother who was also one of my favorite teachers. Sometimes, other fellas got the honor of being in the orbit of these women as well...such as in the pic at right featuring my old college roommate Rodney and our beloved Coonie. Some of these women have moved away as I have, some have passed away. Despite sometimes heartbreaking setbacks, these women forge on. They may be dealing with stress and pain, physically or emotionally, and still they rally. Some of these women will move Heaven and Earth just to help a friend or keep their families afloat and in some of these cases, against impossible odds. Just this past week, I witnessed tears of frustration, tears of grief, tears for one's own child and tears of self-doubt....and yet no matter whatever personal strife any of these women were experiencing, they still found time to comfort me.

Oh, yes, there is food as well....from the Giant Chocolate Chip cookies Kristy baked to welcome me to the wonderful food Kaki helped prepare to the treasured recipes of my Aunt Bonnie. They are consummate hosts as well. I shared food moments with women in a range of ages this past week....from the home-baked cookies made from my grandmother's recipe by Aunt Kate to watching the school-age offspring of my high-school classmates take a cooking tutorial.

Then there's the laughter. At my sister Mona's funeral a few years back, I spoke of her laugh. It was a beautiful laugh, I recounted, a laugh passed through generations of Rinehart women. My Mother possesses it and shared it most often and most loudly with her sister, my Aunt Bonnie. Bonnie's girls, Debbie and Dayle Ann, certainly own it and I'm sure have passed it on to their next generation. My friends can laugh with relish as well...Kristy and I have had giggle fits since we were four years old; Kaki or Connie and I can reduce ourselves to titters in seconds. My girls Christina, Lisa and Laura and I might not see each other for months or years, then reunite and be in gut-busting laughter in five minutes. My sister Mona seemed to lose her laugh as she lost her battle with mental illness so I know all too well the importance of maintaining that sense of humor. Now, at my age, we simply laugh ourselves until we need drool evidenced by Kristy hanging her head over the sink in this pic. Happy Birthday, Apple Cheeks..

My life, clearly, is so much richer for having these women in it. So, take me home, country roads, to my Mountain Mamas, my Belles of St. Marys, my soulful sirens of hometown and West Virginia pride. We will cry the Big Ol' Ugly Cry, celebrate with abandon, lament whatever lousy luck we may be experiencing and as God is our witness, we will laugh.....oh, how we'll laugh.

Rock on, Sisters.


Kristy said...

Gregory, What an amazing post and because I am absolutely selfish I will say perfect birthday present for ME! LOL! I read this post the first time at Kak's and cried. Then I told her if she EVER wanted to feel validated for everything she has ever done, been or felt (not that she needed to) she should read this and I cried again. Your post is absolutely timely. Kak and I found it ironic that many of the things you have written about and posted today we had just discussed minutes before we saw this. You are so right in that we WV Wimmins (LOL)will get through anything, no matter what. We are not afraid to blow up mountains for the right reasons. Usually those reasons have everything to do with protecting and caring for our friends and family and beliefs about what is right. And you are also right when you say that we do this at times against impossible odds. I have had the priviledge of knowing and being surrounded by such strong, creative and loving women and I hope I am the better for it. (I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer but I do have a knack for hanging out with the sharpies.)Thank you so much for this post. Rest assured I will be sharing it with many many other women and men alike who may not be blog followers but certainly do love and miss Greg Haught. And..oh...btw...THAT pic is ok to post. You are correct. I was laughing so hard I was drooling at that moment! Miss you Quang

Love ~ AppleCheeks

Kristy said...

And as Miss Truvy said in Steel Magnolias: "Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion."

Connie said...

Oh you bring me to tears. So nice of you and so correct in many ways. History is only of late finding of which you speak (and have learned )from having such great female friends. Appalachian women have a stamina not found in many other places. They followed their men into the hills and mountains and made homes in areas that no other would or could. I have never really thought of myself in that light but yet, I have prevailed through a great deal and will always continue to find a way to take care of my family and friends no matter what. We have had many a laugh in life and I hope we always will. Some times when I'm around the "family" I laugh so much that it literally makes my lungs hurt. I can wake up the next morning and ache. Oh, how I love it and miss it when you are not here. Music is the only other outlet that I have that can make me relax and feel the way laughter does. I have truly been blessed with friends that are my world and you are certainly such an important part of this. Many thanks for your friendship and love.


Anonymous said...

Kristy just shared this with me, and it is an amazing post! Without those women in our lives when we were younger, we would not be able to be the wonderful people we are now. I am so glad to have been one of MaryAlice's "kids" and to have her daughters and their friends to keep an eye out for me when I was little. I thank all of you, boys,girls,men and women who have molded me as well. Very nicely written Greg!
Holly Smith

Confounded Cook said...

Thank you ladies....and wow, great to hear from you, Holly! Again, I had lots of inspiration.

Christina said...

Oh my dear, sweet Greggles...... (am I allowed to post your nickname for the WHOLE world to see?) Ooops.... now it's out there! Thank you for that beautiful post. It has left me speechless, and we both know how impossible that is the majority of the time. I cannot tell you how incredibly fortunate we all have been to have you in our lives, and I absolutely believe that I am a better person for having experienced a gazillion life lessons with you by my side. Boy do I miss your sweet face and I have decided that you just need to move back to West Virginia to live. Now. Right now.

These past couple of days have reminded me of how important it is to make sure those we love always know it, how important it is for us to have our souls right with God, and how - in an instant, our lives as we knew it one minute, would never be the same again. Although I never seem to have a moment to express it, I want everyone to know how blessed I am to have the best daggone friends in the world!

Hugs and kisses....
Christina Ellen

Confounded Cook said...

No more blessed than we are to have you in our lives, Teeny. For those of you who don't know, Christina and her family have been through a horrific and harrowing ordeal when a tornado tore through Belleville, the town that they live in. They are fine and had some property damage but some neighbors and friends lost everything.

We are beyond grateful our Christina Ellen and her loved ones are safe. Thank you for your kind words and I love you, Teeny! (See, BOTH of our nicknames are out there....)

Kristy said...

Beyond grateful is the truth. I'm beyond grateful that Christina and crew are safe and sound and that I'm fortunate to have BOTH of you in my life. P.S. There are LOTS of other knicknames for both of them folks. And I know them all!!!!! Let me know if'n ya wanna hear them BWAHAHAHAHA!!!

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