Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Where I'm From

As I mentioned in an earlier post,  Carol Henderson did a workshop a few weeks ago on "Those Who Shape Us."   We wrote for ten minutes using as a prompt a poem by George Ella Lyon entitled, "Where I'm From."  

I'd like to share what I wrote and invite you to write a few lines in the comment section about where you're from.

            I am from the neighborhood that had the bomb shelter.  It was concrete with shelves full of cardboard pictures of food.  It was a place where the family who bought it would go when the rest of us got nuked by the Cubans and their missiles.  Our crisis.
            I am from the warehouse family where there were cardboard figures—the Jolly Green Giant and Tony the Tiger—figures that we would beg to take home when my dad took us to his office on Saturdays so my mom wouldn’t end up in “Dix Hill.” 
            I am from wood: wooden boats that my great-grandfather gave his fingers for; frames with dogwoods carved by my grandfather; the woods too—way back in the filtered sunlight where we crossed over dead wood, careful of snakes.  Stepped on the log not over it. I still do that today.
            I am from women, three generations of women with only a man or two thrown in for good measure.  I am from mother and aunts and sisters and daughters. Weak women who died early and strong women who could take me out with a look.  Granny.  That look.
            I am from cities with an innate longing for country, for woods and for food not in cardboard boxes and for porches that overlook ponds black as ink where frogs belch into the night and birds make their morning song. I am from a time when I lived in the country and missed the city conveniences.
            I am from walking to school with friends, riding the bus with sixteen-year-old bus drivers, drinking and smoking on the country club golf course, home-made prom dresses, and the Sears Employee Store.
            I am from Christmases with five children who woke up at dawn, from tiny bedrooms and a big basement, from 6:00 dinner and 11:00 curfews. Our house was “Grand Central Station” my mom would say, which meant nothing to me then.
            I am from a time when we all felt safe except from Cubans and their missiles and snakes.


Anonymous said...

I'm from Greensboro, from North Carolina, from the South -- from turnip greens boiling in the pot (which I hated) to fried chicken (which I loved). I'm from a nasty little apartment on market street with ants and cockroaches, and an ok house on the fringes of Irving Park (my mother was very proud of that). I'm from dogs in the house and running barefoot in the grass and classrooms where you prayed and said the Pledge every morning and Cone Hospital and Warm Springs. I'm from barns and pastures and woodland trails and horses and a long line of horsemen on both sides. I'm from dreams and beaches and little bitty airplanes and trains in Europe. I'm from public schools and girls' schools and women and churches that ruined sex for me -- for a while. I'm from an age when poor Black women still raised rich white children. I'm from heat lightning and six inches of snow and leaves turning and falling and dogwoods and azaleas. And I, too, remember the tunnel of elms on Granville Road between Sunset and Cornwallis.

mamie said...

Anonymous: I laughed out loud at 'heat lightening' and love the wonderful details in your post, many of which could have been in mine too. Thank you for taking the time to write it.

Lisa Lewis said...

I’m from a moving van. I’m from never being at home on Christmas morning, but being at one or the other of my Grandmothers’ houses. I’m from Richmond where the azaleas bloomed in spring in the park in the shape of a cross. I’m from my dad taking us to all the historic places in Virginia, Monticello, Mount Vernon, and hearing the words,”slave quarters” for the first time and feeling a sense of shame to hear about slavery.
I’m from a moving van packing up all our things and moving to Atlanta when I was 8. I’m from being the new girl. I’m from winning the three legged race at field day. I’m from starting to love the red Georgia clay and all the pine trees in my back yard. I’m from seeing my cat with her 3 new born kittens in my car port.
I’m from a moving van. I’m from hearing we were moving again in the middle of 6th grade when I was 11, at Christmas time, to Detroit . I’m from being laughed at for my southern accent. I’m from teachers asking me to say things again so they could smile or laugh. I’m from being embarrassed that my dad didn’t know you were supposed to use a grass catcher if you lived in Birmingham Farms in Michigan. I’m from being the only Southern Baptist at Bloomfield Hills junior high school. I’m from wishing I were Catholic or Jewish. I’m from seeing the words ‘Happy Chanukah” on the bulletin board at my new school and not knowing what Chanukah was.
I’m from a moving van who moved us to Charlotte NC in the summer before 9th grade. Just in time for the first year of forced busing and angry black girls in my class.