My Kentucky Kitchen Table took place in my grandparents’ home in Cartersville Kentucky on April 7th. This dinner was easy to arrange. In order to make sure we all spend time with my grandparents, my dad decided some time ago that we would all get together on Mondays and have dinner together. The work of preparing the meal was split evenly and whoever was available would rendezvous at my grandparents house, which has become a headquarters of sorts for our family.
The first person present at my Kentucky Kitchen Table is my dad Mike. He is an agriculture major from Berea Kentucky. He is the most driven, hardworking, and innovative person I know. He farms our nearly 300 acre farm and also works full time as a maintenance man at a nursing home. He is fairly outspoken and makes fast friends with everyone he meets. The next person present at my Kentucky Kitchen Table is my mom Julie. She is a newly retired psychologist. She graduated from Berea College with a bachelors in Psychology and went on to Eastern Kentucky University to earn her Masters in early childhood development. She worked at the Kentucky School for the Deaf for eight years before moving on to work in the school system in Rockcastle County. She worked closely with children with learning disabilities and helped make plans of action for the best ways to assist them in learning. She loves working with children and took great pride in her career. She is a bit more soft spoken and gentle, but she has a wicked sense of humor and a quick wit. Next is my sister Bailey. She graduated from Asbury University with a major in psychology and a double minor in French and Biology. She now works in the activities department of a nursing home and absolutely loves it. She is the most passionate, intelligent, and well-rounded person I know. Everything she does is done with integrity and passion. She also excels in reading people and creating meaningful bonds with everyone whom her life touches. She says her job at the nursing home doesn’t even feel like a job, but rather just spending time with her 90 extra grandmothers and grandfathers. The next person is my grandmother. She is a retired 6th grade teacher. She graduated from Morehead University, and then went on to teach science, art, and for a brief time English at Berea Community School. My grandfather is my next person. He worked at Parker Seal factory making rubber O rings for nearly 30 years while also farming on the side. He is a Veteran and served in the noncombative zone during World War II. He is incredibly proud of his family and the success we have all achieved. His favorite thing to say is “I never went to college and failed the first grade.” His ingenuity and hardworking spirit however, made it possible for the rest of his family to have the opportunity to follow their passions and pursue their dreams. Next comes my uncle Scott and my aunt Karla. They both graduated from Eastern Kentucky University. Scott has a degree in geology and Karla has a nursing degree. They both work in Berea. Scott at a factory called Hyster and Karla at the Berea Hospital. The last person present at our table is my uncle Scott’s college friend and roommate Ed. Ed graduated from Eastern Kentucky University and now works as merchandiser.
My family tends to gravitate towards serving others. They have all taken their passions and found some way to apply them to their everyday lives and impact others in positive ways. They all have extremely different opinions and views. Our table is incredibly intellectually diverse and I was excited to see how everyone would respond to my questions and what discussions these questions would spur.
No one in my family has ever taken citizen and self and if they took a similar course in college, it has been years since they discussed such topics and the meaning of citizenship as we discuss in our class. While politics often come up during our weekly meals as a family, we rarely discuss citizenship and what it means to us. When politics do come up, they are often addressed in a blustery and flustered manner. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the insightful and thoughtful answers my loved ones gave when I asked them what being a citizen meant to them.
My mom, Julie, answered first. She explained that being a citizen means loving your country and taking pride in your nationality and heritage. She also expressed her sentiments by examining the importance of having connections with other citizens. There is power and a special type of bond between people who share the same rights and privileges. She insisted that citizenship is also about being accepted and belonging. “A universality,” My sister spoke up. “E Pluribus Unum, out of many we are one.”
My sister Bailey then began to voice her outlook. She agreed with my mom, but she also brought up the point that citizenship is also owning land. The meaning of citizenship comes from having a piece of country that belongs to you and you belong to it. She felt as though this notion has been lost in the cities and suburbs, but in rural areas people still value their land greatly. The concept of “Home” is also an integral part of citizenship. As citizens we all have a sense of belonging and no matter what, always having a home in which to return.
My father seconded this notion. As probably the most politically versed person at our table, he tends to have a slightly cynical outlook on our government and the state of our nation in general. He often worries for the future and harbors a general distrust for politicians. However, he insisted that being an American citizen is an integral part of our identities and it was important to remember that no matter the political climate, we are all Americans and strive to do what is best for our nation.
Ed then stepped in and stated that he agreed with both my sister and my father. To him being a citizen meant loving your country and supporting it with a genuine sense of patriotism. He also clarified that as a citizen of the United States, he also reserves the right to criticize that country and the actions taken by the government. When you truly love something, it is important to always strive to do what is best. He then explained that this is why he believes politics have become so polarized. It is easy to get heated and disagree with those who have different ideas about what is best for our country as a whole. Though it can seem frustrating, passion is behind every heated political discussion.
The next question I posed to my family, “do you know your neighbors?” really livened up the conversation. My entire family comes from a very small and close knit community. They were all familiar with their neighbors and quickly embarked on telling stories and talking about the bonds they share with their neighbors. This question enticed many different responses. My grandmother then stepped in and told a riveting story about bonding with her neighbors. She then embarked on discussing recent developments with her neighbors (who happen to be our cousins) chickens and her own chickens. It was long and entertaining but I honestly don’t remember the details.
Once the neighbor talk and stories died down, I posed another question to my family: what kind of community do you want to live in? This question enticed many different responses. My grandmother and mother both agreed that they value safety and community. They value times when they get together with their neighbors and get to know the people around them. My grandmother also expressed her sadness that people rarely get together anymore and often don’t even know their neighbors. She recalled times from her childhood where she got together regularly with her neighbors. She also explained that people used to feel very safe in their own communities and she pitied the young people at the table because we didn’t grow up in similar, close knit atmospheres.
Overall, I truly enjoyed this assignment. I enjoyed being the catalyst for productive conversation in my family. I also loved hearing my family answer to my questions. The topics we discussed at our Kentucky Kitchen Table, we have also discussed in Citizen and Self. While I have formed my own opinions over the course of the semester, it was interesting to hear the thoughts of my family and be able to see things from their perspectives. Everyone contributed in serious, thoughtful ways. It was also extremely interesting to see the perspectives of three different generations.