Kentucky, to me, is marked by two distinct phases: my childhood and that of my own children. For a large part of my adult life, I lived outside of the Commonwealth. When we lived in Atlanta, I was always quick to point out to new acquaintances that I was not from Georgia but from Kentucky.
Like most people, I have the tendency to remember the best parts of my youth. I have jumbled, vague memories of camping and fishing with my cousins at Kentucky Lake, Christmas Eves spent playing under a cloud of cigarette smoke emanating from the kitchen where the adults played hand after hand of Rook, and spending long unsupervised hours exploring the woods and ponds behind our house with my brother. But sometimes a particular memory is so clear, so sharp that I can remember the smallest details. My first kiss, under the Independence Day fireworks at the Lake, from a wiry boy with an Encyclopedia Brown paperback in his back pocket. My Papaw, wearing a U.M.W.A. baseball cap high up on his forehead long before it was hipster fashion, jumping out of his seat and shouting with excitement when I shot the moon in my first game of Rook and won (nobody EVER beat Granny). The day Josh and I found 8 baby red-eared sliders and lugged them home, surprising our mom with a bathtub full of turtles and their dinner (tadpoles). Instead of punishing us, she bought us an aquarium from Uncle Lee's.
We moved back to Kentucky for many reasons, but one was the longing to raise our children the way we were raised. We are now closer to family, of course, but we live in the biggest city in Kentucky and childhood seems to be much more complicated that it was in the 1980s. I doubt I'll ever let Robert roam the woods alone or let Kate out of sight with a boy she just met when she's twelve, but we are creating our own version of a Kentucky childhood. This childhood is one filled with beautiful Olmstead designed parks, crazy competitive St. Matthews little league, lazy summer days at the local community pool, and some of the best pizza and ice cream we've ever tasted. We are also afforded the opportunity to create happy childhood memories with cousins outside of Louisville, whether it is a weekend of boating on the Lake, seasonal festivals, or even a zombie walk in my hometown of Greenville. I can only hope that my kids look back on their childhood as fondly as I do on mine.