Last weekend I went home for a visit. I’m from Roanoke, Virginia, a midsized city in the southwestern part of the state that’s surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains on all sides. Almost all of my extended family lives there, and whenever I go home everyone gets together in the living room of my grandma’s house. My cousins and I joke that everyone talks at once and nobody listens—everything is repeated about five times a sitting, at minimum—but in her house my grandma reigns queen, holding court in her leather recliner. When she talks, I listen.
One of my favorite stories she tells is about my dad when he was younger. As the only boy in a family with three girls, it was his job to mow the lawn, a chore that he despised. It seemed pointless, cutting down something that was just going to grow right back and then doing it all over again a few weeks later. Exasperated by the stupidity of it all, my dad finally informed my grandma, “When I have a house, I’m gunna pour concrete and paint it green.”