If you’ve been reading The Stories for very long you will know that we often have visitors in our home who hail from far and distant lands. This week we’ve had the distinct honor of hosting two families from Miami who were seeking refuge from hurricane Irma.
It seems out of the ordinary to have thirteen people in a home in this day and age – but of course this was an extraordinary weather event and it put people in usual situations. Yet, as I research my ancestry I’m often faced with census records showing three or even four generations living together. A single individual will often be listed as a boarder, yet I know that person to be a niece or nephew. There were children taken in when parents weren’t able to feed them and aging grandparents were sheltered when they could no longer manage on their own.
We mountain people are used to helping out whenever help was needed and that’s a part of our culture that I long to perpetuate. My guests this week were originally from Israel (and one son-in-law from Brazil but we might have to talk about him later). So their traditions are different than ours and my children didn’t understand everything. They do not cut little boys’ hair until they turn three and my children kept calling them “her”. They eat different food than us and they were very gracious as I blundered along trying to honor that. Maybe they saw a bit of Tennessee Mountain culture too as I introduced them to fried okra and made big fluffy biscuits for breakfast.
As people left the mountain looking for work in the 1940’s and 1950’s, they regularly stayed a few days or a few months with kin that had already relocated to the big city. Surely it was a comfort to be in a strange place and have someone familiar around them. Imagine leaving your home unsure whether you’d have a home to go back to in just a few days. Imagine heading north to a place you’d never visited and the home of strangers.
Well, the folks in my home were strangers last week but they are friends now. A dear friend of mine was a cousin of theirs and she was our only link. I pride myself to think I’m a little like my grandmother whose home was often filled to overflowing – in fact when my friend asked how many people I could house I said it depended on how desperate they were. Grandma would often have people scattered on the floor on pallets – I wonder what guests would say to that today?