The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Culture Shock

By Jennifer Rose © 1989

Issue: October, 1989

At only thirty-two, I'm a throwback to another culture. My son and his friends listen with wide-eyed fascination to tales of ancient days.

"How did you take a bath without a bathroom?" one fastidious little girl wants to know.

I explain that we heated water on a heavy iron cook stove. Each person got a bucket of hot water to pour in the big zinc tub, then added fresh well water until the temperature was just right. We bathed in the kitchen because it was the warmest room in the house.

After bathing we emptied the tub outside, cleaned it and, after everyone had a turn in it, hung it on the back porch by the smokehouse.

"What's a smokehouse?" is the question.

I tell where meat really comes from. The kids will eat more vegetables for a while after that. It's one method of pediatric diet management.

Next, "What TV shows did you watch?" Everybody's ears perk up. Remember the commercial where the line is, "My broker is E.F. Hutton"? Exactly.

Their jaws drop when I tell them we didn't have TV when I was very little. When we did get one it was a black and white set, and we were allowed to watch it only a few hours a week.

"Weren't you bored?"

Bored? I try to remember.

I remember many things, some that inspire a terrible longing.

I tell the children about the one doll that I kept for years. My three others were given away to less fortunate children. Kids today think this was absolute poverty.

I tell of making mud pies and log cabins, damming the creek, feeding chickens, climbing trees, exploring fields and hills, chasing the rainbow's end, racing and wrestling with cats and dogs.

I reminisce of flattering big, curious cows; about their soft, brown eyes. Jerseys and Guernseys chewed, blinked and blew, as if they understood but weren't impressed.

I described all day outings. Picking berries, fishing, and learning of herbs and ancestors with my grandfather.

"What about when it rained or snowed?"

Oh, I say, I would read by the Warm Morning heater, or listen to thrilling tales or to songs accompanied by banjo, fiddle, guitar, or mandolin.

I confide that I thought being loved smelled like fresh butter melting on hot homemade bread. I would dip it in honey from our hives and feel like the luckiest little girl in the world.

They laugh. They think I'm so funny.

Bored? That must be a recent affliction. I was too busy living to be bored.