I was born in Lexington but grew up in Louisville, among a family of storytellers whose tales are so tied to this place that the stories and their settings are impossible to separate. When I was a child, my family would get in the car and embark on a family history tour of Louisville. We’d visit the sites of my grandmother’s stories, and she’d come along to narrate. Hearing her tales was and still is fascinating; it gave even the most mundane places in my hometown a sense of personal history.
Because of those stories and that tradition, my Kentucky is all tied up with the places where life has unfolded.
My Kentucky is the old JP Kayrouz, where my mother would take me for Benedictine sandwiches on days I was off of school. It’s dashing across the street to Plehn’s Bakery for almond macaroons after lunch, and I swear those macaroons still taste like freedom.
My Kentucky is the St. Matthews Woman’s Club, where I put on white gloves and went through a receiving line every Friday night of my early adolescence. It’s the agony and the ecstasy of Southern cotillion rituals; it's surviving it all somehow and being rewarded with a cookie and a bottle of Coke at the end of the night.
My Kentucky is that stretch of road on Frankfort Avenue, where as a teenager I once experienced the transcendence that only a newly-earned drivers license and a song by the Cranberries can provide.
My Kentucky is heading to Dee’s Crafts each April to design my Derby hat. It’s the ability to pair the hat with the ribbon with the flowers to coordinate with the dress. It’s the instinct, possessed by Louisville girls, that dictates exactly how much is too much; it's knowing to stop just before you cross that line.
My Kentucky is the BW-3’s in St. Matthews, where I met my husband through mutual friends as we gathered to watch UK play in the Maui Invitational Tournament. It’s the corner of Breckinridge Lane and Shelbyville Road, where we shared a thrilling first kiss a few months later. (As my grandmother would say, “He chased me until I caught him.”)
My Kentucky is the bridge I crossed to leave for Chicago when I was a new bride. It was the same bridge that brought us home for good with our first baby a few years later. (Incidentally, don’t get us Louisvillians started on the topic of bridges).
My Kentucky is the Highlands home I share with my husband and two young daughters. It’s drinking wine and playing cards on the porch after the girls go to bed. It’s the tree-lined streets where we walk and drive, the restaurants where we eat, the parks where we play. It’s stopping for coffee at the Heine Brothers in Douglass Loop, and knowing that my great-grandparents once shopped at the market there. It’s the comfort of knowing that the places that once were theirs are mine now.
Kentucky fits me in a way no place else does, and living here gives me the opportunity to share this place with my two little girls. How could I ever properly pass Kentucky along to them if we lived anywhere else? It’s more than a story I could tell them, or a recipe I could make for them. It’s more than wearing Wildcat blue or a Derby hat. Kentucky can be appreciated in pieces, from afar, but you have to live every day among its places and its people to truly understand.