West Virginia, Family and Memories

Country roads took me home last week, to my father's hometown near Grantsville, West Virginia. Sadly, we said our final goodbyes to my uncle, Charles Duskey II, my father's oldest brother. (My grandmother had five boys, God bless her; my father was the youngest.)

Uncle Junior (or "Pap" as everyone called him) was wonderful and kind — a man of faith, a World War II hero and a loving family man. He died at the age of 96; peace well-earned at the end of a life well-lived.

So, with my sisters beside me, we returned to the place of our childhood visits for, perhaps, the last time. 

It's funny how the senses remember... 

Being there, where countless hours and days were spent whiling away our time in the thick of the country, triggered memories of so many of the sights, tastes and smells of our childhood visits. Suddenly, amidst the beauty of the ridges and valleys, I could see my grandmother's sweet face and the dear old house filled with her treasures. I could taste fried chicken from the cast-iron skillet, barbecue sandwiches, breakfast-sausage-as-much-as-you-want, and homemade grape juice. And, with every inhale, I could smell Avon honeysuckle perfume, Rose Milk hand lotion, country breezes on damp spring mornings, frying bacon and musty old sheds just right for treasure-hunting.

Intertwined with the sights and tastes and smells are the memories of the sounds. Magnified by the pitch-black of the night, the deep hills were filled with music. The creaking of the old house, the crickets chirping and bullfrogs croaking, the tinny clang of the screen door and the sound of the whistling wind rushing up the hill from the family cemetery fill my memories. That endless cacophony in the vastness of the country — unfamiliar and eerie to a suburban girl with an overactive imagination — inspired one of my upcoming books, It's SO Quiet. The book is a humorous take on the rural "quiet" through the ears of an antsy little mouse who SHOULD be going to sleep. And, it's a tribute to those old songs that are now only memories — songs that I will never hear quite-like-that again. 

Like all of my books, It's SO Quiet is a mix of my loves and my memories, a tribute to where I've been, who I've been and what I know. It also represents both an exciting new project and a bittersweet ending. It's turned out to be, perhaps, my final goodbye to a place and time I loved so dearly and remember so vividly. 

It's SO Quiet will be illustrated by Tony Fucile. Chronicle Books, 2018.