I was born in Huntington, West Virginia
(recently rated the most unhealthy city in the United States).
While the hollows may be filled with illiteracy, obesity, and poverty,
and while there may be no shortage of West Virginia jokes
(I've heard them all),
there is also the most amazing love that grows there.
Linda Hoover is from West Virginia. Magically, the pound cake that
I got from her tasted as if it had been made with WV Love (and butter).
It made me weep. It tasted like this kind of love:
Love that can sprout through even the thickest layer of coal dust.
Love that means soup beans on the stove at the end of a long day.
Love that smells like applebutter with the right amount of cinnamon.
Love like clothes on the line.
Love that tapes a dime (when you are 9), and a dollar (when you are 19)
to a red-paper heart on Valentine's Day.
Love that rocks your baby to sleep when you're simply too tired to do it yourself.
Love that offers Castor Oil if you suddenly don't feel like going to school.
Love that can pack quickly and get there on time.
Love that cuts your crust off until you are old enough to realize how good crust is.
Love that will say, "Honey, you sit right down and let me fix us a Coke."
Love that has a really soft neck.
Love that exclaims, "Well, I am finer than a frog's hair sliced twice! How are you?"
Love that hears the porch swing creaking at 3:00 a.m. and comes to sit with you.
Love that says, "I reckon we'll have to just have each other
for Christmas this year."
Love that writes letters to shut-ins.
Love that can whistle the gospel song "P'wr in the Blood".
Love that never tires of a much repeated story.
Love that understands kids real guidance, and biscuits need real butter
Love that never forgets the spin cycle or the fabric softener.
Love that can spell your name with pancake batter.
Love that tells you to "Get out of the bubblegum"
if you try telling an outrageous lie.
Love that offers a prayer for stray dogs.
Love that won't get mad at you if, when you are 5, you somehow become convinced that you have been abandoned in K-Mart and need to walk the 13 miles home by yourself in the dark rain and love frantically runs out of the store to find you, slips, and breaks a leg.
Love that will don combat boots and pull six children
through the snow on one sled.
Love that insists you take some snacks with you.
Love that knows who you eat with is more important than what you eat.
Love that wakes you up early the day of the funeral
so that you can have a good breakfast.
Love that tells your new husband that he is "handier than a pocket in a shirt" when he straightens up the leaning mailbox.
Love that says casually, "Well, lookie there" when another age spot appears.
Love that says to you one day, "I am forgetting words".
Love that continues through confusion and heartache.
Love that gives you just a little time to give
back a fraction of what you have received.
Love that goes before you could even start to get even.