Keeping kids in touch with their West Virginia heritage
My husband and I have lived in Georgia for 15 years, so our 11 year old son was born here. We love our chosen home state and are proud of our Georgia Boy. However, just like other native West Virginians who have left the state, we have a delicate balance to strike. While we want our son to be proud of being from Georgia, we also want him to be proud of his West Virginia heritage.
To my son, West Virginia is associated with family and our family has had its share of coal miners. My father worked in the mines, as did my grandfather. My husband's father lost his leg while working in the mines and my husband's uncle survived fighting in World War II, but lost his life in a West Virginia coal mine.
A lot of brave West Virginians have done the same. Risking your life while scraping out a living for your family is something that not everyone could understand. I think that mentality passed down for generations is what makes West Virginians such a tight group. It's hard to explain to outsiders, but West Virginians seem to understand.
Something that has helped us show our son what growing up in West Virginia was like is the movie October Sky. He's watched it for years and can quote many parts of the movie by heart. The movie helps him --- a 21st century kid, growing up in a major metropolitan area --- understand a way of life that is difficult to explain to those who haven't lived it.
While we were in West Virginia last October, my son and I went on a long drive with my dad. When I was growing up, long rides in the car were a regular occurrence. We'd drive to old coal camps, like the one where my father was born or the one where he grew up, or one where my grandfather worked. Being in the car with my dad was a chance to learn about my family's history. So, last October, my son got to experience some of that.
I can't even exactly remember what our intended destination was, but we passed a sign for Coalwood and my son begged to go there. I guess I knew what he was expecting. He was expecting it to look like it did in the movie. It doesn't look like that, of course, but it was still very interesting to visit. My son definitely wasn't disappointed.
My son was happy to take this picture of the sign at the lane in Coalwood named for Homer Hickam, one of his "West Virginia heroes."
During that same visit, we celebrated my son's 1oth birthday at Grandview State Park with our West Virginia family. My son wanted his cake to reflect his heritage! He refers to his 10th birthday as his "West Virginia Birthday."
I bought this hat for my son at the store in the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine. It's a reminder to him of the proud history of coal mining in our family.
Coalwood hosts an October Sky Festival every year. We plan to make it to one in the future. It's another way to keep our Georgia Boy in touch with his West Virginia roots.