But I can promise you this—there’s just something about West Virginia, my very favorite state of all.
In 2007, BJ and I moved away from here. But every chance we got, we got ourselves home. For eight solid years, every time we crossed the state line, we played John Denver’s “Country Roads” and sang along loud and proud and most definitely off key. Seeing the “Wild and Wonderful” sign as we emerged from the East River tunnel on I-77 always felt like home washing right over me.
It’s funny how you can love a place so much that it hurts. That you experience a literal ache when you have to leave it. That you feel like you can finally breathe in all the way when you get back to it.
Maybe it’s because West Virginia is not just a place. It’s a core value. It’s a belief system and a way of life you take with you wherever you go. It’s a crazy juxtaposition of kinship and independence, resourcefulness and interconnectedness, toughness and tenderness. It’s working hard to better yourself but never forgetting where you started. It’s knowing who your neighbors are and pulling together in both triumph and in tragedy. It’s rejoicing and weeping in solidarity across all fifty-five counties.
I’ll never forget how I felt on October 16, 2015, the day God allowed us to close on our own little piece of paradise, a property just outside of Union, West Virginia. The mountains had called us home, and we were happy to oblige.
You see, when I’m in West Virginia, I feel like all the pieces of me are put back together and I am my entire self once again. To an outsider, the pieces sure don’t look like much. Granted, they’re nothing fancy, but they’re mine. They’re snow tires, pepperoni rolls, Babcock State Park, apple butter, and the state fair. They're hills and hollers, hunting season, Bridge Day, country churches, the Gauley and New Rivers, railroad tracks, and coal mines. They're game day, autumn leaves, the gold dome of the Capitol building, lumber trucks on curvy roads, trout streams, corn mazes, and—most of all—family. These are the pieces of me. And if you are a fellow West Virginian, chances are, they are the pieces of you.
As the sun sets on another day in Almost Heaven, I am grateful to be home. It's wild and wonderful, and it's mine.
BY MARYANNE TUCK GRIMMETT