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  • Writer's pictureKimmy Higginbotham

An origin story for West Virginia

Updated: Feb 28, 2023

Once upon a time there was a beautiful mountain. Her raiments were green grass and wildflowers; her hair a tangle of trees. She was beautiful and beloved by all living creatures. But she longed to be a part of the world of creation - to have a child of her own.

Deep inside her heart there was a cavern - a space big enough to grow life, but it only grew stalactites and stalagmites, crystals and coal, and she wept for a millennia.

Until one day a creature found her cavern and ducked inside to get out of the rain. Once they had discovered the beauty there, others came. They came to marvel at the beauty of her heart and some to take a small piece home with them, and so her love was spread.

It wasn’t long before she noticed how the creatures marveled at her outer beauty, and gathered there as well, climbing up into her lap and resting there, building homes in her arms, raising children at the crook of her neck and nourishing themselves at her breast with all the glorious nutrients she had to offer, washing themselves and drinking from the flowing stream she had created with her tears.

She was so filled with love for these creatures that she wondered how being a “real” mother could be much different. She raised them, shaped them, became part of their history, their heritage, their identity. And when the creatures started singing to her they named her “Mountain Mama”, and she knew she had been right. She had become a mother after all - to millions, to generations, to children, and she named them “Mountaineers”.

Notes: First, if you are not from the states, you might not know that West Virginia is known as “Mountain Mama” and West Virginians are known as “Mountaineers”. I think this may be, unintentionally, my own personal origin story for WV. I had wanted to write about what was coming up the most for me throughout all of our classes - nature, home, WV, family, love - and without knowing it at the time (but now upon reflection) I wanted to try and convey WV as something other than how I felt about it as a place, but rather as a member of the family, a part of my history, ancestry, heritage, identity. Not just a home, but an entity without whose influence, I could not be who I am.

I also wanted to go back to a discussion from my first week of this term regarding story telling. I had mentioned (hopefully without resentment) how often it is that stories involve some sort of infertility and how those issues were solved by magical forces. I understand the structure. I really do. And I understand that in the times these stories were written, reproducing was very important, particularly in the case of royals. But my own struggles with infertility has me always cringing a bit about the magical fix. I know it’s not personal (there’s no way it possibly could be) but it hits a nerve. In addition, last term we were studying the dynamics of "family drama" and I was also struck quite a lot about the use of the word “real” (real family, real mother, real father), and if you ever want to hear my thoughts on that I could talk about it for days, feel free to ask. But I digress. With this story, I wanted to present a female figure who longed to be a mother and became a mother in a nontraditional manner. She became a mother through love, not birth, through action, not creation.

The name “mama” also has a special connotation to me, as my own mom is known by pretty much everyone as “Mama Carla”. She gave birth to my sister, Kristin, and me, but she raised a neighborhood of children who had less understanding/loving/supportive households to grow up in. She still “adopts” every friend I have as one of her own kids. I even have an ex boyfriend that occasionally stops by the house to visit with her and she continues to call him her “son”. Which is not weird because, in our household, love and family don’t end when things don’t work out the way one hoped. About the time I turned 22, a bunch of my friends started calling me “Mama Kimmy” because of the way I looked out for people (particularly when they were intoxicated). Now that I am older and dealing with my infertility, I can think of no higher praise than to be considered someone who takes care of others the way a “mama” does, the way my mama always has. So, the “Mountain Mama” thing is meant to be more than a reference to a John Denver song.

Anyway, my rambling notes have taken longer than the story itself. Please let's sit and talk about our stories. I want to hear yours.

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