“Don’t get above your raising.” That was a phrase Fahe’s Director of Human Resources, Norma Bartruff, grew up hearing from her uncle, Bob, in Wolfe County, KY. “For me, that phrase meant stay grounded,” said Norma. “Don’t forget where you come from. Remember your family.”
Norma’s uncle, aunt, and mother grew up poor near the banks of the Red River. Her grandmother passed away when her mother was only three and her aunt eight. Norma’s grandfather was blind. The three children had to basically raise themselves in a home with no electricity or plumbing and a structure so badly maintained that there was literally snow on the bed in the winter.
“Knowing how my family grew up, I take it as a personal insult when I hear people use ‘Don’t get above your raising’ as a negative,” said Norma. “I’ve heard people use it to mean ‘know your place’ and that some people think Appalachian folks use it to keep their kids from being successful. That makes my blood boil. It means do your best, work hard, and don’t expect anyone to give you a handout. You should be successful, just don’t forget your family and where you came from. Remember your raising.”
Norma contributes the success that she and her cousins have had in life to taking her uncle’s words to heart.
Hearing Norma talk about her experience with people taking a beloved phrase and misinterpreting it made me think about how Appalachia faces a lot of negative stereotypes and misconceptions. It’s our hope that while we show the need for things such as affordable housing and community development that we also show the positive. Appalachia has a rich history, a background for hard work and commitment to service, and a diverse culture. We want to make sure that people from outside the area correctly understand the people we serve as deeply as Norma wants her uncle’s words to be taken as a positive.
As always, I want to hear back from the people who read the blog. What are some of your favorite sayings from Appalachia? What do they mean to you? Do you ever feel that a particular saying can be taken in a different way than intended? Feel free to share on the blog, Facebook, or Twitter.