Today my folks drove in from Kentucky, where they had been visiting — well, more of my folks. (I think I’m related to half of the state.) They brought me a birthday present: A six-pack of ALE-8-1.
If you’re not from Kentucky, you probably have no idea what I’m talking about. ALE-8-1 (usually just called ay-ell-ate, and it’s impossible to say it without a twang) is a soda somewhat like ginger ale that’s produced and sold only in the Bluegrass State.
“Kentucky Proud,” says the box. Though I’ve never lived there, this bottle of sugar water and its unchanging, vintage logo represent my roots.
There’s a Bible verse, somewhere in the Psalms, I think, that talks about how it’s important to have deep roots. Deep roots support large branches. The more you “branch out,” the more you need your deep roots to keep you solid and anchored. It’s important to remember your heritage; where you came from; what you’ve faced and conquered. The better you remember that, the stronger you are to face the future, and the more free you feel to fly higher.
A case of ALE8 is a wonderful birthday gift, despite the fact that I’m glucose intolerant and will probably be miserable if I drink it. Even if all it does is sit on my kitchen counter, it will make me smile, and remind me, in the words of Alabama, “I was born country, and that’s what I’ll always be.” While I miss the mountains and the High Sierra winds and the sheer untamed wildness terribly, I know they’re part of me wherever I go. They reinforced, throughout my childhood and still today, the values my parents taught me: fight for what you love, work hard for what you want, never say the word “impossible,” and listen to what everyone else has to say before you speak. It’s hard to be full of yourself when the John Muir Wilderness has thrown its best at you, and you’ve lost. And it’s hard to be pessimistic when you’ve ridden a horse into a wasp nest and not died.
Maybe I will let myself have a soda after all.