“Home is the place where, when you get there, they have to take you in.” – Robert Frost
“The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Over this past summer, I returned to my hometown, Parkersburg. My wife and I were having our first baby, and home seemed the best place to be. We were surrounded by family and friends, and visited places that are so familiar.
Before going to West Virginia, though, we stayed a few nights in New York, New York. It was the first time for me to explore the “City that Never Sleeps”. It was fun, seeing the sites and sights that everyone expects of us. In addition, we went through Manhattan, getting lost – finding those places one only finds when they are well and truly lost.
We found several local restaurants and shops hidden among the larger storefronts. We found a few foreign shops and goodies hidden down alleys. It was fun seeing the hidden side of NYC. Of course, there were things we got to see that were more major. We circled Central Park, climbed the Empire State Building, took a cruise to see Lady Liberty.
The weather was cold, but Spring was definitely visiting. The flowers were blooming everywhere, especially in the parks. The trees were budding, and the young animals were frolicking. We enjoyed our time adventuring in the Big Apple, despite the chill in the wind.
Once we arrived in my hometown, however, Spring had given Winter the boot. The weather was brighter and warmer. Everything was vibrant, green, and growing. The flowers in the fields had started blooming. Life ruled all. My wife and I visitied our family farm and many local places within my hometown.
We visited a Revolutionary War fort – Fort Boreman – and the park that now sits on that hilltop. The park overlooks the old B&O Railroad crossing of the Ohio River, the old factory district of Parkersburg, and the connection of the Ohio River with the Little Kanawha River. We also visited Wheeling, St Martinsburg, and Moundsville. There were lots of things to see in these cities, but the biggest attraction was the penitentiary in Moundsville.
The Moundsville Penitentiary has a shaky history that can be traced back over 100 years, starting as holding and execution place during the Civil War. After that, it slowly developed as a prison. There were several additions over the years, and eventually it became a national penitentiary. It had a morbid fascination and cruel feeling to it. Inmates were kept three to a room, in a cell that could barely hold 2. The worst of the inmates were kept in the cells for 23 hours a day. There is a framed letter from Charles Manson currently hanging in the penitentiary. Supposedly, it was so renowned, that he asked the Governor of West Virginia if he could be transferred.
It wouldn’t be a decent blog post if I did not talk about food. While we were back in my hometown, we tried to cook both healthily and some food like we would eat in China. We did a fairly decent job at making things healthy – seared tuna, quinoa stuffed peppers, channa masala, and grilled salmon. We also made some more traditional chinese dishes – dumplings, noodles, kebobs, and hot pot. We ate very well.
When my wife’s parents came from Xi’an to Parkersburg, we took them to explore the state. We went to the Blennerhasset Island, where the mansion of the Blennerhassets (a prominent British family) now sits. It was shipped all the way from England to the United States and then brought down the rivers to the island. We also went into the mountains to visit some of the important places in Appalachia. We visited Seneca Rocks, Canaan Valley, Little Mountain, and Blackwater Falls, as well as many of the small towns in between. It was good to see my state again, and even better to share it with my wife, in-laws, and newborn son. We also took my in-laws shooting, something the have never done. They said they enjoyed and seemed to have fun with the guns, despite having never held or seen one before.
The last stop we made this summer was Washington D.C. We had to go get our son’s registration to leave the country and enter China. We took a few days to explore the capital too. We saw the White House, the capitol, the monuments, the Smithsonian Museums, and the Metropolitan Zoo. We also discovered a few ethnic food stores where we were able to buy supplies for our cooking authentic food.
We had a great several months, spending time with family and friends. We saw places that were familiar to me, but new to my wife and son. We got to spend so much time together and start my son’s life right.