Tag Archives: hazard kentucky


Image 2

I have a doll.  Her name is Rosebud. 

She was given to me when I was ten years old after my Great Aunt Elizabeth passed away.    Elizabeth, known in my family as Aunt Wooba, lived in Hazard where she taught school. She was a teacher who ruled her students with an iron fist.  I know this because over the years, whenever I return home, someone occasionally tells me a story about her devilish antics directed towards children.  Wooba was born in Pineville Kentucky in 1893.   She had seven sisters and one brother, including my grandmother, Charlotte.    My grandmother’s family was comprised of eccentric musical women.  The sisters played instruments and went to college with the exception of my pianist grandmother. Wooba never married, although my father told me she was once courted by a taxi cab driver from Asheville, but other than her taxi driver suitor, she was a spinster who followed my grandmother to Hazard in the 1920’s.

As a child, I remember many times riding in the car with my mother and brothers and gazing out the window and seeing Wooba walking around town with her arms full of groceries or sometimes pushing a dilapidated shopping cart, heading up the ivy wrapped hill to her house on Sunset Street.  When my Mom saw Wooba walking, she would breath in deeply, stop and give Wooba a ride home.  My brothers and I watched Wooba with fascination as she talked about her afternoon adventures, which usually included an altercation with someone such as the check out girl at Bell’s Grocery Store.  At the end of the ride, Wooba tried to give money to my mother for the trip home.   My mom always refused. It was a choreographed interaction I observed so many times until one afternoon when we picked Wooba up in front of Jerry’s Restaurant.  It was a humid summers day, the kind of day where my bare thighs melted into the vinyl seat of my parent’s Buick. In the torment of having three children fussing in the car, the drive to Wooba’s house up the hill felt like an eternity to my exhausted mother.  So when Wooba pushed the wrinkled dollar bills into my Mother’s hand, she accepted just for the sake of getting her screaming children back  home as soon as possible.  Taking the money was never Wooba’s intention and fairly soon Wooba was on the phone calling every business in Hazard, including the insurance agnency where my mother worked, telling everyone that her nephew’s wife stole her money.

During these many rides to Wooba’s house, she talked about Rosebud.   I had heard stories about this doll but never saw Rosebud while Wooba was alive.  The doll was packed away somewhere in one of Wooba’s closets among old clothing and shoes but she talked about Rosebud and how one day she would be mine.  A few months after Wooba died, as my mother was cleaning out Wooba’s house, Rosebud was unearthed from the chaos of clutter.  She lay in a ragged rectangle cardboard box secured with a rubber band.  As my mother peeled off the rubber band and opened the box, there she was, a doll stripped down to the cloth of her body.  Tattered and slightly chipped.  Rosebud didn’t have a hair on her head.

I was a child who had watched one horror movie too many involving demonic toys, including an episode of Twilight Zone featuring a wind up doll called “Talking Tina”.  I was frighten of Rosebud but also fascinated by this naked creature.  As I reluctantly lifted Rosebud up into my arms, I saw that the doll had been lying on a bed of human hair inside the the box.  My Aunt Jeannette told me  this was Wooba’s hair, hair that once was long, chestnut and probably had grown well past her waist. A photograph of  a woman with her back turned to the camera was also in the box, a young Elizabeth with her beautiful cascading tresses.  Wooba’s hair cradled Rosebud, probably embracing the doll for decades, but tucked inside the nest of hair was something else.  I gently moved the locks away and saw hidden under the layers of hair was another doll, a small Chinese man who wore a red embroidered jacket and pants, two ponytails loosely hung off his head.

Opening the cardboard box that held Rosebud and the Chinese man was like opening a sealed tomb.   Magic, oldness, the spirits of my grandmother and her sisters were unleashed that day, a doll that opened me up to my ancestral past and memories.  I imagine those little Bell County Kentucky sisters gathering around Rosebud the day Elizabeth received the doll maybe for her birthday.

That night after we discovered her, I dreamed of Rosebud.  I dreamed of my great aunt holding her and playing with Rosebud as her long hair moved in waves.  I imagined my great aunt as a child and not just as the strange and eccentric old woman I knew.   I also think about the passage of time and the events in life that carve out our paths.

Still and possibly because I knew my Aunt Wooba so well, this doll continued to have an eerie aura, even after my mother had her restored to her original beauty with new clothing, a curly wig and a touched up face, I was afraid to have Rosebud stay in my room. Rosebud was a relic of my family’s past.

Just a few years ago my parents sold the house I grew up in and moved to a smaller home and along with so many other trinkets, Rosebud was packed away in a random box.  She is somewhere among the boxes that have never been unpacked.  So once again Rosebud is stowed away, and I can’t help but wonder where she is among the chaos of my family’s own clutter.  I want her back and I want to reunite her with the little Chinese man.

Holding onto a doll from the past feels good in my hands because I know I am touching something someone in my family before me has touched.   Family memories embodied in the form of a doll.

Image 1

My Grandmother and her sisters. Elzabeth is holding the baby

Elizabeth's  hair inside the box that held Rosebud

Elizabeth’s hair inside the box that held Rosebud


Smack Down into Motherhood

On a hot July evening, I race upstairs and call to my stepson, “Lawrence, WWE’s RAW breaks TV and social media records.  Look!” I show him my laptop computer screen, the evidence clearly there on http://www.newsday.com.  “Do you remember watching it on Tuesday night?”  “It was the 1000 episode!” My cool collected and confident ten-year-old stepson turns around and corrects me, “Well it was actually Monday night and yes I did know it was the 1000 episode.”

Lawrence is right, we did watch it on Monday, but as you get older, I explained to him, the days kind of melt together.  My memory isn’t quite as sharp as his, but I do remember watching Dude Love, aka Mick Foley, wearing his trademark multicolored tie dye shirt as he stepped on stage from ringside and presented Mr. Socko.  For those who are not familiar with Mr. Socko, he is basically an athletic sock with a sharpie marker face but with so much personality that he has become one of Mick Foley’s larger than life creations.

During the 1000 episode, AJ and Daniel Bryan are about to get married when Vince McMann (Creator of RAW and an East Carolina University alumni) walks out on the stage and announces that he is offering AJ the general manager position of WWE which she enthusiastically say YES to. Daniel Bryan is heartbroken that AJ has chosen to be general manager over becoming his bride.  He angrily demolishes the wedding alter as well as the stage.  AJ dances around and taunts him in her lace wedding dress and steps off the stage reveling her Chuck Taylor tennis shoes.  The crowd is out of control.  It is the largest sold out audience in WWE history.  I could go on….  The ROCK makes an appearance …. More wrestling…. You get the picture.

It was a very big night for wrestling fans across the nation, maybe the world as my husband, Chris informed me that even Bedouin tribes in the Middle East watched RAW Smack Down on Monday night.  He heard this on NPR.

For anyone who knows me, watching RAW is completely the antithesis of who I am.  I am a peaceful artsy kind of woman.  My initiation into the wrestling world occurred while I was in fifth grade and my friend Beth was crazy about Randy Macho Man Savage. A lot of people in my hometown, Hazard, like wrestling, which probably isn’t too shocking, but while I lived in Durham,  in the 1990’s, my housemate Bill and his young son, Will, were avid viewers.  In those days, WWE was called the WWF until the World Wildlife Federation threatened to sue because they believed they had rights over the acronym.   Bill isn’t the type of person I would have ever imaged would have been drawn to wrestling.   He is a Dead Head and a mellow type of guy, but both he and Will were captivated by wrestling and although there were times I would stare in wonder at why they were so immersed in this violent obsession, it wasn’t long before I was engrossed in RAW as well.

I admit, my attitude about wrestling was very high and mighty but once I moved beyond my preconceived notions, what I discovered was storytelling through human struggle. I love the fighting and drama as well as the crazy costumes.   Wrestling is theater for the people and it draws on classic themes of good and evil.

During the time I lived in Bill’s house, I also observed that he and Will shared a special father and son bond as they watched The Rock and Stone Cold Steve slam each other in the wrestling ring.     Funny, years later, I am a stepmother to a boy who loves wrestling as well.  The act of bonding is a life long commitment, and I have only been a mother for a couple of years.  So during the stolen moments on a Monday night, between folding laundry and assisting with homework, it feels good to occasionally watch an episode of RAW SmackDown with Lawrence and know we are sharing something his father and sister have absolutely no interest in watching, something that is just between the two of us.

Food for Thought

One weekend, while I was a college student, I went home with my friend Susan to Chapel Hill, NC.

Chapel Hill is a vibrant place and home to UNC Chapel Hill.  The town is funky and in the late 80’s it was filled with galleries and bookstores as well as a progressive music scene.

As a wide-eyed stranger, I was enamored with my surroundings as Susan drove me around in her red Honda Accord, showing me the sights that included, Weaver Street Market Food Co Op, the Ackland Art Museum, and UNC Planetarium.  We walked on the greenway, before I even knew what a greenway was.   We shopped on Franklin Street at thrift stores and funky jewelry boutiques. The people who strolled by were fashionable and offbeat.

The allure of this quant hipster town would one day call me back and I would make my home in Chapel Hill and Durham for several years.  But on this weekend, I was simply a visitor and enjoying myself as I breathed in the Tar Heel air and became acquainted with Susan’s family.

Chapel Hill is known for its amazing eclectic restaurants.  Just a few years ago, Bon Appetite Magazine named it “America’s Foodiest Small Town”.  However, long before it earned that title, on a spring day back in 1989, Susan’s dad, Paul wanted to take his daughter and me out to a fancy dinner.

One of my delights is good food.   I must have inherited my palette from my parents who love to travel and try different foods.  As a child, whenever we trekked from my hometown, to a larger city, it was a thrill to eat out.    I will never forget the first time I ate Chinese food at the Oriental Inn in Lexington, KY.    Hong Sue Shrimp. Shrimp fried in egg tempera batter with sautéed vegetables.   I didn’t think it could get any better than that.

I was looking forward and curious about where Paul was planning to take us to dinner.   Paul announced his choice: “Girls I really want this night to be special.  This is a great restaurant with unique food and I want to share it with my daughter and her friend, Charlotte. We are going to Crook’s Corner for dinner”.

I had no idea what Crook’s Corner was but it sounded great to a poor college student and an alternative to ramen noodles in a hot pot in my college dorm room.   Paul continued, “Crook’s Corner is a Chapel Hill restaurant that serves world famous southern cuisine.”

The oxymoron of “world famous and southern cuisine” dumbfounded me.   I had grown up eating the Appalachian version of southern cooking.  Soup beans, green beans and corn bread were staples on my family’s dinner table.  My grandmother was revered for her recipes. Butter and lard had been her downfall but the glory that made her cooking so delicious.    My mother did not compare to my granny as a cook, but she also held back on the fat back and introduced her family to salad.   We also had local greasy spoon restaurants in town such as the Circle T and the Chat and Chew.  But neither of these would have ever had the word “cuisine” associated to their name.  It was just food and no one certainly made a production out it.  To me, southern food was why you went out to dinner in the first place…. It was a way to escape what was familiar.

So it was on this day that something so personal to me as the food I ate growing up became a revelation.   People actually desired something I took for granted.

Over the years, I have reflected on this experience. It opened me up to something right before my eyes. Just like the people of the south, the food of the south reflects a unique blend of cultures and culinary traditions.  Native American, Spanish, French, African American and British all contributed to the development of “southern food”. Good food is a part of the art of living.  Crook’s Corner, the “temple of southern cooking” lives up to its reputation and carries on this varied southern food tradition.

Somehow along the way, southern cuisine became a popular avenue to experience southern traditions in much that same way as someone may eat Italian food to experience Italian traditions.   That seems so strange to me, because my familial culture, eastern Kentucky, is the antithesis of all of that.

It was something you held close because of your twangy accent or because of the way “outsiders” reacted to you.   I guess you could call it the “Wow Factor” of a geographic region that has always been marginalized in the media and in the mainstream.   The very thing that is considered a mockery also attracts fascination and attention.

I sometimes wonder if people don’t grasp for something that they have lost, like a cherished memory through the love of a good meal.  Tiny bits of that memory can be conjured up with the food we eat or grew up eating.   Food is a powerful avenue to our hearts.

So, in my own life, I am thankful for my older brother John.  He lives in Pawleys Island, SC and is the designated family chef.  John can make a mean pot of soup beans.  He can artfully string shucky beans together as well as make the best low country shrimp and grits I have ever tasted.  I am glad to know that my granny’s flair for cooking is still alive and well in the culinary talents of my brother.

Thank goodness for all of the grannies of the world and their unique family and communal recipes.

John doing what he does best