The Nouveau Appalachia Parent


When you visit the Virginia mountains with your children, you are likely to encounter a specific type of mother.

She doesn’t vaccinate her children. She’s likely to call them “Moon Pie”. And she will allow them a healthy serving of dirt – as only a snack, of course.

True story.

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Can you ever really return home?

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It’s a question that came to me not long ago – at McDonald’s, in fact. Just before we sold our first home in May, I was overcome with a longing for my parents and their house in the mountains of Virginia.

So I did what any Millennial parent would do: I tried to recreate a scene from my own childhood.

We took our children to eat beneath the golden arches for the very first time. As you may have guessed, our sandwiches were edible cardboard and the kids ate very little without the aid of excessive ketchup.

Really, the moment stung. “Old McDonald’s”, as my son lovingly refers to it, only heightened feelings of isolation within me.

Could I ever experience home again?

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Meeting the Deplorable

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“My insurance is gonna run out soon. Truman promised to take care of us.”

When you’re immersed in Appalachia, this statement translates quite easily: I used to work in the mines.

But the coal industry that sustained life in West Virginia – and, if we’re honest, the rest of America – is now idle. Caught in the political crosshairs, tens of thousands of men and women are now without work.

The local pastor with whom our mission team recently served was quick to redirect our sympathy: “I can’t even go through a metal detector – I got metal in my knees and hip!”

It was a light moment before the grim reality of the region intensified: There is no money.

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Descending the Ivory Tower

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My uncle is a plumber. To the average American, there is nothing exceptional about his life.

One Christmas, when our extended family still gathered for the holidays, my uncle was late. At the time he was working for a highly-esteemed university in our community.

The reason for his tardiness that particular year? He had been called in to shovel snow off of campus sidewalks.

I remember staring at him in disbelief. “But it’s Christmas.”

“Well,” he explained with an air of resentment, “those professors gotta have clear sidewalks so they can do their work.”

What I didn’t realize then was that this division – between the haves and the have-nots – was bigger than Christmas lunch that year. That it would only grow in the years to come. And that it would forever change our political landscape.

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