OPINION: MY MEDITATIONS: Cabin on the farm

Jun. 7—In the time of my grandfather Bill Wilson's retirement, when he'd slowed down right along with the years, he decided to erect a cabin at the helm of our family farm. He bought 80 acres of rural farmland in the 1960s for $5,000, not knowing — but perhaps hoping — that farm would be the land that saw his children and their children grow.

With the help of his children, he had the cabin, once a robust homestead for generations of unknown families, dismantled piece by piece and transported to his farm to be given a new life.

It bears a single room and a large rock hearth and chimney. My grandmother, Joyce Wilson (nee Parman) planted flowers along all sides of its four walls and they spent the next decades filling the cabin with grandchildren.

The cabin served as our family meeting place. Steps away from their own tiny home, whose foundation was rumored to have once been laid with its own hand-hewn logs, our family celebrated holidays and birthdays alike in those tiny four walls. Papaw filled it with old antiques from the times of his father and grandfather. My uncle, James Burns, an art teacher in Laurel county for decades, decorated the log walls with his beautiful art. It became our haven, a beacon of our family values.

We spent countless Sundays crammed together in the cabin. There were no smart phones or tv, only one flickering fluorescent light that nobody ever seemed to want to turn on — as if it would taint the magic of the place. We spent our time talking to one another without distraction. Long stories were woven from Mamaw's rocking chair as she moved back and forth, near enough for a lick of the flames to warm her. One of my aunts, Sue Goodin (who was named after Miss Carrie, who originally wrote a column with this name), would regale us with stories of our parents' childhood. Though childless herself, Sue has mothered hundreds of children and was more a second mother to us cousins than an aunt.

Most young girls grow up playing house with their dolls and dollhouses. I played in my Papaw's cabin, making mud pies on the stone hearth and pretending I was Laura Ingalls Wilder on the prairie with my gaggle of cousins.

I once spirited away a fat black crayon from my grandparent's house and scribbled my name into the wood planked floor in a loop-ish child's scrawl. My parents were furious, but my grandparents only smiled and refused to make me remove the signature, as my parents ordered. It stayed there for years until shoes or rocking chairs or children's butts smoothed it away.

The cabin served as a foundation for our Appalachian life. It harkened to our past, while also ushering in new generations.

Large sofas aligned the meager space and the adults always settled in on those cushions without competition. Children were delegated to the floor, all of us fighting for places nearer the fire. This was an understanding of our life: children were the epicenter of our family, protected by the shroud of all our aunts and uncles seated around us. We could not take a chair from an elder, but we could earn one. In time. When I visit the cabin now by myself, the single room feels massive in its stillness. I'm reminded of how alive it felt when filled with family, with laughter and love, and that Appalachian sense of togetherness.

On my last visit, I sat and swung from the porch swing outside the single-paned windows of the cabin, watching my daughter smell the flowers her great-grandmother had planted. I was struck by the sound of a creak as I swung. Had that always been there? I'd never been able to hear it over the sound of my boisterous family. Either age or quietness has brought it out until it revealed itself to me as a witness. I imagine that creak was worn into the porch swing from years of legs pumping beneath it and am happy to be included as a contributor. I invited my daughter to sit with me for a spell so she, too, could contribute.

Sarah Wilson Gregory is a Laurel County native and 9th generation Kentuckian. She can be reached at sarahwilsongregory@gmail.com.