Priorities

The Floyd and Ollie Jane McCoy farm located along Peter Creek, Kentucky, circa 1945

My husband woke with pancakes on his mind this morning.

“Thinking of Gram again?” I asked.

He grinned like a boy. “She fed us grandkids pancakes with bottles of Log Cabin syrup every summer.”

Bessie and Milton Underwood owned and operated the Presque Isle Lodge north of Alpena from 1946 to 1975. Mel grew into a hungry man on Gram’s pancake breakfasts and whitefish dinners.

On the other hand, my maternal granny fed my sisters and me buttermilk biscuits smothered in sausage gravy in Phelps, Kentucky. She topped off breakfast with fried apples on buttered biscuits. For dinner, she set before us fried chicken, homegrown green beans, and mashed potatoes.

Although she must’ve, I cannot remember my mother flipping pancakes. My father, an O’Brien, preferred fried eggs, bacon, and potatoes for breakfast.

Therefore, ours is a house where North met South in January 1970. We’ve adapted our diets accordingly. I modified Gram’s lumberman’s flapjack to an oatmeal buttermilk batter with pecans and blueberries, served with pure maple syrup.

This is the recipe I placed before Mel this morning. “Just follow directions,” I said and began my New Year’s goals—a perennial priority January first.

At the top of my list is purging and preserving boxes of stuff we’ve inherited from our children, parents, and in my case, Granny. Add to that drawers of family photos yet to be installed into albums, and I believe we have a winter’s worth of work.

You see, we’ve run out of storage space for my mother-in-law’s turquoise jewelry, and can no longer postpone the reunion of Cabbage Patch babies to their mid-life mothers.

From what I hear, this scenario is common amongst our Viet Nam generation. We possess remarkable family records to protect for posterity—if they’re interested.

For example, I hold my parents’ wedding invitation. A formal note that provides indisputable evidence of young love and hope for a bright future after World War II, it’s a keeper.

My grandfather, James F. McCoy, and his wife, Ollie Jane, extend the welcome. That came as a surprise since all my life I’ve not once heard anyone call my grandfather James. Deceased before my birth, I know Grandpa as Floyd.

This illustrates a family peculiarity and my grandparents’ cordiality within their Appalachian community. I don’t know how the invitation landed in my hands, but I’m glad of it.

Sadie Lee McCoy, my mother


And there’s a small, prenuptial photo of my mother leaning against Dad’s Chrysler, circa 1940’s. Mom strikes a sexy pose, most likely directed by my father, a camera enthusiast, who loved a new automobile almost as much as he did his fiancĂ©.

Dear Reader, a photo of Grandpa Floyd’s hen house and homeplace in the McCoy Bottom catches my eye. A coon dog pants in the foreground. That’s where I lived seventy-one years ago.

I sense the influence of my Scot-Irish-German forefathers and foremothers upon my soul, and am thankful for our six hens. They provide plenty eggs for Mel’s pancakes.

Well fed, I attend to my priorities.