Thursday, October 1, 2009

Before corn flakes

I sat at a fold-out table holding a carton of vitamin D milk. I looked at my styrofoam plate stacked with buckwheat cakes, blackened sausage patties and a container of Motts apple sauce. The room had fluorescent lighting, tiled floors and a disco ball hanging from the ceiling. The crowd wore WVU sweatshirts and jeans. I hadn't seen so many perms, camo hats and suspenders in one room since I was a little girl living in Scott Depot during the '90s.

It was a rainy Saturday in September in the little town of Kingwood, W.Va. We'd driven an hour through winding hillsides tinged with red, orange and yellow leaves and dotted with horses, hay bales and trailers on our way to Preston County for the annual Buckwheat Festival. My dad and gram had wanted to go in memory of my granddad. I liked the idea of eating buckwheat cakes at a fall festival in small-town West Virginia.

After our $7 breakfast served by the Kingwood fire department, we went to the basement to check out the arts and crafts. I spotted a couple of stands selling exquisite painted pottery, but it was far out of my price range. I settled for a chunky, Peruvian-esque bracelet. The long-haired Lewisburg artist called the pattern on the polished, burgundy stones tiger's eye. Outside I read the signs hanging over a row of food vendors: "Hot Delicious Fried Dough. 'Mountain Ears' -- Fresh Buttery Corn on the Cob. Fresh Fried Pork Rinds." The three West Virginia food groups.

Luckily the night before we'd gone to the Provence Market Cafe in Bridgeport for casual French cuisine. Gram asked me if I was going to brush my hair before we left for dinner. She's from a better kempt generation unfamiliar with today's bed-head waves. She commented on the laurels and mums around the porch on our way into the restaurant. I think that skill's been lost on my generation. To start I ordered the soup du jour, butternut squash. It ended up being a bisque, something I'd never order as I'm unable to justify the drinking of cream. Thank goodness for my ignorance because the sweet and spicy recipe was to-die-for. I ordered one of the specials for my entree, fire-roasted red peppers and tomatoes with mushrooms over homemade linguini.

I shared a bed with Gram that night. She likes to talk to me in the middle of the night. When I'm asleep. "Don't you worry Rachel," she said at 2 a.m. "It will all work out. My mother asked me if I'd ever end up getting married, but when I met George it happened so fast."

The next evening we bought her a DVD player so we could watch "Mona Lisa Smile" (love the red lipstick, synchronized swimming and bicycles with baskets). She insisted we leave her handwritten instructions so she could turn it on once we left. That night she declared the television set broken several times and told us we better fix it before she had to call the cable company.

I remember my granddad exhibiting similar frustrations with electronics. I've never been mechanically inclined either -- I still struggle with my iPod wheel, and the real reason I don't watch TV is that I can't figure out all the remotes. I started thinking that if my academic grandfather and crossword-whiz grandmother had the same problem, maybe such skills (or the lack of) were hereditary. "Technology intimidates them," my dad said when I shared my observations. "It's a fear thing." I'll take that. So I'm not too slow to work a Playstation. I have a phobia.

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