We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. TS Eliot
Just one year ago, I wrote a post called Road Trip , where I talked about taking a car trip from South Carolina to a very small community called Flat Top, West Va. It gets it name from level highlands upon which it is situated—the “flat top,” which follows the crest of “Great Flat Top Mountain”. At the summit, it is 4001 feet above sea level. All I can really remember is that there was a small country store/ gas station with “pop” as they call it there, and snacks, etc. close to my grandparents farm. There was a small school house across the street, a few more farm homes, and another small country store that served as the post office. I also remember cows and chickens, although I am sure there was more to it.
In my previous post, I explained that the trip each summer was to visit my brother who had been adopted by my paternal grandparents. I was four when we were separated following my parents divorce. I would travel with my grandmother every summer until I was sixteen to visit for a couple of weeks. The first time I went to visit there was when I was eight years old. The local paper came out to take a picture and report on the strange visitors from down South. Here is that article:
I remember pulling up to the house and feeling excited and scared all at the same time. I was told that I had been there to visit when my parents were married, but I was too young to remember that. Yet, I felt a strange sense of familiarity with the house and my brother. There was a connection there, which is hard to explain.
In my post last year, I ended with suggesting that my brother Mike and I make a road trip and visit Flat Top together in the coming year. He jumped on board quickly, and we decided to make it happen. Early this year, we talked with my brother Billy (my father’s son) and his wife Susan about the trip. After bouncing a few dates back and forth, we chose the last week in July for our adventure.
Let me digress for just a moment. My father remarried shortly after his divorce. He married a young woman who lived just down the road from his parent’s farm. He and his wife had five children together. I didn’t get to spend much time with them growing up, but my brother Billy and I have always had a strong connection. In fact, he is the only one of the kids to whom I am close. Just a couple of years ago, after his mother died, he and Susan bought the farm and live there full time. We will all be spending the week together. I am working many extra hours the next two weeks to be sure I can afford the gas to get there!
I am excited to visit my brothers and sister-in-laws, and I am excited to see the place I spent so many summers. I am also a bit anxious; memories might be stirred or maybe there will be triggers during this trip. We hope to find some other relatives or family friends who may help shed some light on some family questions. I want to enjoy the peace and beauty of the mountains, as well. Some new information I recently discovered is making me even more excited about seeing Flat Top. I have been searching for information about my father (he was adopted), grandparents, and other family. While helping my friend Jan with some research on her family, I discovered some great resources. One was a great website with old newspaper clippings. I found some newspapers from West Virginia that gave me some exciting information. Before my mother passed away, she explained that my name was Carolyn or Carol Lynn when I was born , and that I was called Lynn until my grandmother adopted me and changed my name. I wrote about it in a post called “Will the Real Cathy Please Stand Up“. I was also told that I was born in the Philadelphia Naval Hospital and then moved back home to Charleston, SC shortly after.
There were some newspaper stories about the Flat Top Farm Women’s club in some of the old newspapers. Several of these included the names of the women attending the meeting. I was shocked to see my mother’s name listed with “her daughter Lynn.” By putting the dates and names together, I discovered that after I was born, my mother went to live with my grandparents in Flap Top while my father was out to sea. We lived there until after my brother was born, moving to Charleston when I about two.
I believe this trip will be a journey home for me. In the quote at the beginning of the post, TS Eliot says that we “will arrive where we started and know the place for the first time”. I don’t really know what I hope to find or gain from this journey to my first home, yet I believe it will hold more significance and meaning than I imagined when we planned this reunion. Maybe I will meet my little girl Lynn while I am there. I will surely give her a hug and tell her how very happy I am to know her.