I usually identify myself as a “recovering Kentuckian” to those who ask. I’m usually kidding, mostly, to brush over the unease I tend to feel about being a Southerner living in New England (and Kentucky IS the South, just to clear that up).
Kentucky–Lexington, to be exact–is such a place of opposites: wealth and poverty brush up against each other uneasily, as evidenced by the expansive horse farms, the hills that really do roll, the bluegrass, and the army of workers who labor to keep those farms going. I know because my grandparents were soldiers on the front lines; my grandfather was an experienced horseman who worked most of his life running someone else’s livelihood.
Kentucky, a slave-holding state, where I know that, with enough diligence, I could probably trace my genealogy back to whomever owned my ancestors. I have tried off and on over the years, but have gotten frustrated because I don’t know the names of the slaveowners, yet also know that those same people did not do more to name my relatives than “boy” or “man” or “child.” How I wish Henry Louis Gates would select me to help find my roots…I’m sure they’re scattered there among the tobacco plants.
Then, there’s this other part of me that loves Kentucky for what it has made me. I know the importance of friends who have known me since we were children; the value of a good boss (I still swear that the woman who hired me when I was 14 for my first job and kept hiring me back through college was one of the most decent human beings I’ve ever known); that racial understanding is possible because as many White folks helped me get where I am, through encouragement, a hand up, a kind word, as Black folks did. Whenever I make it back home–and it’s always my home, my answer whenever I’m asked the question where I’m from not where I live–I make it a point to see those people because they knew me before now. They can hold a mirror up to me and I believe the reflection. They are my home.
Then, there’s this current moment, March Madness. Every single year I pick Kentucky to win the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament. My brackets are usually shot because I abandon any rationality and let my heart decide. Funny, it’s Kentucky every time. I follow Kentucky basketball, allowing the pitch to build and peak around now. March Madness is one of those experiences that makes me remember why I love my hometown above any other place. At least for this moment, it feels right to sing the UK fight song, to wear my lucky socks, to hope for an undefeated season.
It’s March. I’m mad. Certainly. #gocats