18 April 2007

I Am From

I've been thinking about my childhood lately, and I remembered a meme that went around a while back on some of the blogs I read. It's a simple formula, really, but every one I read was evocative and many were just beautiful. So I thought I'd try my hand at it. Better late than never!

I Am From

I am from weathered mountains and woods of pine and oaks. I am from up the hill, just off Janesville Pike, up near the park. I am from Raggedy Ann with red-marker boo-boos, Little House on the Prairie, yellow stenography notebooks full of ballpoint scribbles, and a long white bookcase crammed with books.

I am from the brick-and-white house on the corner, just as you reach the top of the hill. From the white birch tree encircled with pachysandra in the front yard, and the tulip tree in the side yard, and the maple climbing tree in the back. From the floor-to-ceiling built-in bookcases around the fireplace and the television relegated to the basement.

I am from mountain pies cooked over the campfire, from waiting till Christmas Eve to eat any cookies, from harmonizing to “In the Garden” in the car, from Penn State football, and from sitting on Gram and Pap’s front porch. I am from one father who walked away, and from another one who stepped up. I am from Bob and Linda, Ruth and George, Harold and Leona. I am from a colorful mosaic created from the pieces of two broken families, with love and commitment as its mortar.

I am from storytellers and readers and gardeners and uproarious laughter. I am from bad tempers, stubborn pride, and even more stubborn loyalty. I am from steel-toed shoes and grading papers and working hard to support your family.

I am from “You’re being antisocial” and “Jenny, will you play with me?!” From “My, it’s quiet—everyone must be hungry” at Thanksgiving dinner and “Let’s go up to the Bellwood intersection” for ice cream in the summer.

I am from Church of the Good Shepherd, over by the football field. From primary choir, junior choir, youth choir. From singing “My Hands Belong to You” two weeks after heart surgery and wondering why the adults were teary. From seeing hypocrisy up close. From seeing faith up close. From Wednesday morning youth Lenten breakfasts, and from singing in old country churches clad in light blue polo shirts and white skirts. From "Ring the Bells" at Advent and "Were You There" at Lent. From Betty and John, Karen, Ron, Edie and Joe, Norman, Craig.

I am from Bethesda Naval Hospital, where a cutting-edge surgeon saved my life almost as soon as it began. I am from the Pennsylvania Dutch, stalwart Germans all. And from mysterious Italian and Swedish forebears swirling unrecognized through my genes.

I am from pork and sauerkraut at New Year’s, homegrown lettuce and spring onions, pickled beets and eggs, patty-pan squash, chives plucked straight from the garden, Way’s orchard apples in the fall, and Grammy’s special Christmas punch.

I am from Pop-pop hearing his mother’s favorite hymn on the radio after asking God for a sign that baby Jenny would be all right. I am from a blind date set up by my great-aunt, with my mother expecting a short, bald man and being relieved when my tall father (with a full head of hair) showed up.

I am from big brown photo albums under the coffee table, from yearbooks stacked somewhere upstairs, from a line of smaller black albums on the shelf, from the framed pictures on walls and tables. I am from the black-framed pictures that now march up and around my stairwell, of grandparents now gone and children now almost grown, and of the new generation, my daughter and nieces and nephews, who will be from somewhere new and yet still familiar.


Momoo said...

Thanks, Jen. That was beautiful - see, you do have a better memory than you think. You made me teary and brought back so many memories. I really needed that.

Momoo said...

And this one is beautiful,as well. Thanks,Jen. We really needed this. See? Your memory isn't all gone.

Dave said...

Brava! One of the best responses to that writing prompt I've seen, and interesting to see which things I knew and which I didn't.

Jennifer said...

Thanks! It was kind of difficult to get started, but now I keep thinking of things I should have added.

Wendy said...

I commented before, but it never popped up. I guess Momoo is more advanced than me, now... This brought back so many memories - that honestly weren't tucked that far back, seeing as how I'm such a nostalgic fool. It was nice - I would try my own, but it would be nearly identical.

And, thanks to you, "Were You There" has been going through my head for days now (which is better than "Come on Ring Those Bells" which I abhor!!!