An Appalachian Mother’s Legacy

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This is my beloved mother, Gatha Jean.

She was born in 1934 in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky. She grew up poor and fought being labeled a “hillbilly” most of her life. She did, however, learn to appreciate it and late in life was a proud hillbilly.

My Momma passed away in February, 2013 and I am so very grateful that before she passed, I had a chance to sit with her as she told me what she could remember about our old family photos, including this one.

This photo was taken in Bellingham, Washington in 1961. My Momma was 27 years old (the same age my daughter is now) and she and my father were going out. She’s wearing a dress that she made by hand and she’s holding the ever-present ciggy.

I love this photo because my Momma looks happy. She looks hopeful. She looks carefree. And from all the suffering she had already experienced up to this point in her life, I know that wasn’t really the case.

My Momma struggled throughout her life with anxiety, mental illness and lack of self-worth. This was ironic because she was absolutely brilliant and a member of MENSA. It wasn’t until she was in her 60s that she finally recognized her worth and took control of her life.

When I look at this photo, I see my mother’s beauty, strength and resilience; she was definitely a fighter. Also, I love her shadow. It always stood out to me, as if it were another person. I made a piece of jewelry with the photo of my Momma on the front and her shadow on the back.

I take great comfort having her shadow with me, even more so now that she’s gone. ~shared by @holddear

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