Here is the first column submitted by local writer Diane Warman Blanks about returning to her home, her heritage and her life in the mountains of North Carolina after many years away. Check out the “About Diane” section below for more information about her writing and her career.
BLUE RIDGE MOUNTAIN VIEWS
“When I First Came Home”
By DIANE WARMAN BLANKS
Returning to your hometown after 28 years is a bit like falling into a time warp. The buildings are familiar, but they have new and sometimes unexpected businesses in them — the old bank is now town hall; the beautiful old rock newspaper office is now a tavern; the hardware store that had everything you were looking for and more is now a shopping emporium.
The faces I see downtown are also familiar, but only, I think, due to genetics, as I have only run into two people that I actually know since I’ve been back. I think the familiarity of the others is due to heredity — distinctive bone structures and physiques passed down through generations of mountaineers.
My grandmother’s plain little house is nearly 100 years old and built on somewhat boggy ground. It has small creeks running on either side of it, both of which start at springs behind it, so basically it’s on a tiny peninsula. I kept waiting for it to start sinking into the ground like the House of Usher under the unaccustomed weight of me and all my household possessions. I moved from 1200 square feet into 644, if you count the porches (and I do!).
But as a matter of fact, this tiny house should be fairly sound. The roof started to sag a couple of years ago while I was still living and working away from here, and I paid big bucks to have it replaced. That was a few years after the floor in the back of the house developed a large hole and started to cave in, and I had it and the floor joists replaced and only a couple of years after the floor in the front of the house started to give way, and I borrowed an enormous sum to have it replaced/supported. I figure the contractor and I have spent the past 10 years and a fair chunk of my retirement funds rebuilding this place. Who knows the motivation of the human heart?
But the family magnetic knife rack is now back in its rightful place on the kitchen wall. It traveled with me for more than 40 years. I remember that when we originally got it, when I was small, we all stood around admiring it. When you’re being raised by a fatherless family that nearly starved to death in the Depression, there aren’t a lot of frivolous extras; the knife rack was definitely an extravagance for us and moved us up, we all felt, into the ranks of minor gourmet cooks.
In a little while, I’ll go up to the road where my car is parked and roll my groceries down the hill in my mother’s old wheelbarrow. It’s perfectly serviceable; it just badly needs that can of green Rustoleum spray paint that I bought and will get on it eventually. My mother, with her thrifty Depression-era mentality, would be pleased that I’m still using it. At this rate, in six months my arteries will be like velvet, if I haven’t keeled over halfway up the drive. Note to self: Must do something about the driveway.
News at eleven,
ABOUT DIANE WARMAN BLANKS
Diane Warman Blanks was born and grew up in Old Boone, where her mother was the first chief switchboard operator for the fledgling Boone telephone system. Her grandfather was an early pastor of Boone’s Advent Christian Church, as well as a professor of sociology at Appalachian State Teachers College, now ASU.
Blanks has been a newspaper columnist, editor of a county weekly newspaper and a long-suffering (but always perky) public relations lady. In 2010, she retired from a position as coordinator for donor relations with Emory University in Atlanta and returned to Boone, where she has been joyfully getting reacquainted with mountain life. A graduate of Boone’s Appalachian High School (Go, Blue Devils!) and the UNC Chapel Hill School of Journalism, she is currently a member of the Junaluska Heritage Association, High Country Writers, the Watauga Library Endowment Board and the Boone Historic Preservation Committee.
Much, much earlier in her career, Blanks wrote the In the Mountains column for the Winston-Salem Sentinel and also a weekly humor column for The Blowing Rocket entitled And Furthermore.
“I was the poor man’s Erma Bombeck back in the day,” she says.
Watch for her upcoming book, Postcards from the Blue Ridge, due out later in 2015.
“What I write these days is through the filter of memory,” she says. “And then, I’ve got that murder mystery to finish — not from memory, by the way.”