By Nita Johnson
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
A weekend visit to my cousin’s home in Ohio is always a welcome change of pace in the routine that defines my life away from work.
Though most visits to my northern family members revolves around some special family event, the latest visit offered some ‘down time’ that focused on just visiting. Friday night was relaxing conversation in the hot tub, and Saturday brought shopping at Burlington Coat Factory that netted granddaughter Hannah with some very nice quality school clothes at unbelievably low prices. Saturday night I enjoyed a nice dinner with Doris and husband Tim and cousin Rob and wife Geri, who celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary on July 17.
My cousins are the product of the mass exit of Kentuckians to the Ohio factory work not offered in the London area when their father, Fred Hedrick, reached adulthood. For more than 30 years he worked for the Formica company until medical problems forced an early exit from the work force. His wife, also a transplanted Kentuckian, worked various jobs to help support the family and was the example of what I wanted once I reached adulthood.
My family has a strong background in work ethics. The sole reason for unemployment is a layoff or a family emergency or situation in which constant and/or consistent care is required. Although my grandmother and mother were not ‘gainfully employed’ in the public sector, they worked hard to raise a garden, do manual work such as carrying in buckets of coal for the heater, drawing water from the well that brought rave reviews from those subjected to “city water.” Once a garden was plowed and disked, Mammaw worked daily to control the weeds without the dream or convenience of a tiller.
Those work ethics passed on to the six grandchildren of Ida Miller Hedrick, known to most as “Aunt Ida.” While none of us can boast of great riches, we have come from little of nothing and have survived as a productive part of the country’s work force. All men in the family (including my own husband) perform skilled and sometimes dangerous labor. Rob installs glass windows into multi-story office buildings. Jim, who lives in Casey County, Ky., operates a crane on construction sites. Palmer operates heavy equipment in road construction and Tim does industrial and commercial door and window installation.
The women learned young about secretarial and administrative work, using their typing abilities to make a decent living that has contributed to the household income.
We have our memories, we’ve had our trials, but the joy of being together and sharing laughter and good times prevails over all else. It is the legacy instilled by our grandmother, continued by her children, and now passed on to the grandchildren of her grandchildren.
A weekend at Doris’ is a reminder of our own youth when I would spend weeks of summer vacation at their home, and their family would spend vacation time with us. Birthdays, holidays, and special occasions were not complete without my cousins’ presence. We still laugh about how we exchanged pajamas during our younger years and we were astonished when our daughters, Heather and LeeAnn, did the same thing when they were younger, although completely unaware of our ‘family tradition.’
As the sole two granddaughters in the family, Doris and I have evolved to the matriarchs of the family and of family tradition. We insist upon placing flowers on the grave sites of our parents, we insist on our children participating in certain events related to the family, we plan family get-togethers and we cherish the memories we had as children. It was inevitable that my granddaughter Hannah spend some time with Doris’ granddaughter Hailee (named partially after my mother and born on Mom’s birthday) during our visit. It is a tradition that we were eager to continue and one I hope will continue to future generations.