Thursday, June 20, 2013

Mountaineer By Choice

The Knitter and his younger brother
In June 1989, my family packed up and moved from northeast Pennsylvania to West Virginia. I was 24 years younger than I am today -- I don't do that kind of math anymore -- and, to be perfectly honest, completely unhappy about moving to a new state, new town, new school.

To my parents' credit, they did everything they could to help me adjust to new things. Not quite a teenager (we didn't have things such as "tween" back then) is a terrible age for change. That first summer, my family was very close. Mom bought a season pass to the wave pool and I feel like we spent almost every day at the pool. We went to movies -- wasn't that the year of "The Little Mermaid"? -- and started making new friends.

The Knitter goes camping (with a big
camera case on his hip)
Fast forward through the rest of middle school and high school. Does anyone really like those years? I mean, I guess someone does or they wouldn't happen. It's a conspiracy. Many of my best memories was exploring West Virginia. Our family spent a lot of time traveling around the state, up through the New River Gorge to Summersville Lake, down to McDowell County, Lewisburg, Fairmont, Seneca Rocks. And making friends all along the way.

This year, if you're from West Virginia, you can't escape the Sesquicentennial (isn't that a great word?) -- 150 year anniversary of becoming a state -- and every writer, journalist, blogger, author, celebrity tenuously linked to West Virginia is waxing poetic about the grandeur of the state and how amazing it is to live here. (If I hear about how amazing pepperoni rolls are one more time, I'm going to go off the deep end. It's just a dang piece of dough wrapped around some Italian cold cuts. There isn't even any cheese.) And I agree with a lot of what they say. The people are the friendliest, the mountains and the hollows are so picturesque, the rivers and streams, the arts, crafts and music.

The Knitter and his mother on
a graduation trip to NYC
But for me, it's where I really grew into myself. I learned how to be an adult, a functioning and productive member of society. I've made lifelong friends. I fought with my family and have had the strongest relationship with my family as ever. My brother married a girl from north-central WV and now has two great kids, my nephew and niece.

I'm an adult now and have been for a couple years at least. I've thought many times about moving away from West Virginia. Columbus, Ohio or Michigan were front runners at different times. But I'm still here. I love the small town feel of the state's biggest city. I love how easy it is for me to get to work in the morning - two miles in five minutes. I like that I'll be able to go to a world movie premiere (not a joke) on Sunday and probably run into 10 or 15 people I know.

One time, several years ago, my mother and I had a conversation about the decision to move from Pennsylvania and if I regretted it. Without hesitation, absolutely not. I'm not one of those "live without regrets" kind of people. I think everyone has regrets, that's part of life. But I can't regret a move to West Virginia. I think it's partially shaped me into the fairly, mostly (sort of) well-adjusted adult I am today.