The more I think about living in the mountains for a while the more appealing it gets. We set out for a dive into urban culture shock, but so far the exit has been riddled with its own problems.
My strategy was the pencil and paper. Putting down all of the details and figures, backing up my estimates conservatively, and then pushing as hard as I could. Nothing happened. Still I pushed harder, and what a beautiful metaphor this broken finger has become.
So if enough details work out that we can at least get to Virginia, we’ll have an ideal place to pause and reflect on our flight and the lessons we hope to learn in Brooklyn. We have never taken a vacation that didn’t include living with relatives while in between jobs. I guess that’s a pattern worth holding on to.
My first time on “the hill”, which is where we are going, went something like this:
It was Labor Day and the Addair’s were having a cookout. Ashley’s dad is the youngest of nine, and being fruitful runs in the family. I found myself playing tackle football on the mountainside with about 20 guys who were all first cousins. I was still learning names and trying not to be the city kid when someone got the boxing gloves out. Its kind of like Fight Club where if it’s your first time, you have to fight. So me and cousin Stevie are in the ring; we bounce around just enough to keep everyone entertained. After a few minutes of this, the family all comes outside to see what Ashley’s first hill-worthy boyfriend is made of. There might have been 100 people and I’m not exagerating. The buzz of the crowd swells as a pickup truck rumbles in the distance. It throws up dust as it climbs the switchbacks to the house. Brian, or just “Brine,” or most commonly, “Fathead” is coming. People are especially glad to see him because this is his first visit to the hill since jail.
As Fathead is welcomed home, someone hands him the gloves. I’m frantically taking mine off and trying to hand them to someone else as a circle forms around the two of us. Fathead only knows that there is some curly headed dude he doesn’t know and the dude is ready to swing. And I’m the curly headed dude that knows I need to run but I think that may be worse.
He’s head and shoulders taller than me and I can’t even reach him. Stevie had already worn me down. I didn’t eat breakfast. You don’t really need to hear my excuses, all you need to know is that the fight was called after a couple of Fathead connections to my face and five minutes later I was sitting on the edge of the porch surrounded by my new loving family. Ashley had a bag of ice on my head and I could tell that I had never made her prouder.
Now nearly six years later, I’ve jumped dirtbikes, shopping carts and minivans off of homemade ramps on the side of the hill. My Father in law, a champion and professional dirt bike racer, plus hero to our generation of cousins, has instilled in us that “if you’re going to be stupid, you’ve got to be tough.” Every boy in the family and most of the girls have been taken to the Tazewell emergency room from some stunt pulled on the hill. Climbing a skinny, knotted rope and breaking your hand is pretty weak. But if you’re the only one that can climb it to the top, and you climb back down on a broken hand; you get some credit. Not as much as for taking a swing at Fathead, but somehow it was an honor to be leaving the hill on the way to the ER.