Almost Heaven

Last week, I took my 75-year-old aunt to visit the town where she and my father were raised. This is the first trip we've made there since my father died, so it was an emotional journey for me. Hinton, WV is a quaint, old-fashioned town that sits on the far side of Sandstone Mountain. On our way down the curvy mountain road, we saw the house that's listed in the Guinness Book World Records for being passed the most times by the same road. It's a good thing my stomach was empty or I might have gotten a bit queasy.

Brick street in Hinton
We drove past the old family home, now in sad shape with its boarded up windows, peeling paint, and sagging eaves. I sat on that squeaky porch swing many a night when I was a young girl, snuggled up next to my grandfather as he puffed on a Camel cigarette and we listened to the crickets chirrup. I remember that the stars were profuse and seemed to glitter like bright diamonds against the black satin nights in Hinton. The days were long and lazy, and I would often be gifted with a quarter and allowed to walk beside the brick streets into town to spend my money at the local Five 'N Dime. I would return with a small treasure, a new yo-yo or a set of jacks or a sparkly bauble of some sort. My grandmother loved petunias and her flower boxes overflowed with colorful blooms, their heady aroma wafting in the dense summer heat.

Dairy Queen lunch...yum!
No trip to Hinton would have been complete without a stop at local Dairy Queen for lunch. Now, hot dogs are normally not on my favorite-foods list, but these mouth-watering bites of pure deliciousness are too delectable to pass up. They're smothered in onions, mustard, cole slaw, and chili. And the buns are fresh and soft, buttered and toasted on the outside. I'm salivating as I type this. The French fries are crispy, salty and hot; the fountain 'co-cola' is syrupy sweet and fizzy.  I don't want to think about the number of calories I consumed, or the saturated fat that now clogs my veins. All I can say was all worth it!

The New River
Hinton sits on the New River, a beautiful, wide ribbon of water that gurgles and churns on its swift flow toward Bluestone Dam where the river is impounded and forms Bluestone Lake. My family had yearly picnics in the park that surrounds the lake. I can still taste my grandmother's succulent fried chicken and my mother's potato salad and buttery fried green apples. Grandmother would make a tasty jello cake for desert, or we would stop off at the Dairy Queen on the way home for a frosty, chocolate-dipped ice cream cone. (As you can probably tell, food was--and still is--an important part of my life.)

We visited with my cousin, Lynda, who lives in lush, gorgeous Greenbrier County in the tiny hamlet of Quinwood, population 458. (In all honesty, I don't know the true population count, but Quinwood IS very tiny.) Lynda lives at the top of a mountain, and she and her husband, Dennis, are surrounded by green trees, cool breezes, and friendly neighbors.

We made our annual pilgrimage to Clifton Forge, VA. That's where my grandmother lived as a young girl, and that's where the Montgomery Family cemetery plot is located. The cemetery is peaceful and is surrounded by picturesque mountains on all sides. Great-granddaddy and Great-grandmother Moss are there along with Granddaddy and Grandmother Montgomery. My uncles, an aunt, and several cousins are also there.

Clifton Forge sort of hangs on the side of a mountain, and as we drove through town, my aunt told us a story about one snowy winter when my grandmother rode her sled down a steep street, and being unable to stop, found herself flying right up the courthouse steps.

Shenandoah Valley

On our way home, we drove through the Shenandoah Valley. I was struck silent by the beauty of the countryside. There is something awe-inspiring about seeing the stark rock-faced cliffs juxtaposed against the rolling green lushness that simply takes your breath away.

This area of the country truly is Almost Heaven.

Wanda Redovian

I'd like to dedicate this blog post in loving memory of my cousin, Wanda, who recently went to be with the Lord. There is nothing 'almost' about the Heaven where she now resides with her mother and father, her sister and brothers. Wanda, I love you and miss your beautiful smile, your sharp wit and quick laughter, and your vibrant Light. Until we meet again...

1 comment:

lynda shankle said...

Donna this was a beautiful story.Dennis said you were truley a great writer.Thank you for the dedication to Wanda,she would be so proud....God Bless you....