Where I’m From
i’m from a little gray ranch hidden behind overgrown bushes on a steep hill.
i’m from beneath the willow tree and a field-stone wall, peopled by imaginary friends.
i’m from high expectations. from complex equations left unfinished on the backs of paper restaurant menus; from pink plastic flowers; a bedroom with curtains that matched the wallpaper and the bedspread.
i’m from praise whispered in one ear and criticism hissed in the other. from “stand up straight” and “every penny counts” and “be a big girl.”
i’m from confuzzled truths and secrets and lies.
i’m from strong Judaism watered down. from Torah and tallit and kippot, lox and bagels, noodle kugel and matzah ball soup. from a broken Borscht Belt, stories of what once was, memories of a dark pew in a fire-bombed synagogue.
i’m from want. from a hot-headed Polish Papa who once threw his plate on the apartment floor. from his ketchup and eggs, like bloody clumps soaking into the carpet. and my Nan who silently cleaned up his mess.
(don’t tell me this isn’t true. i was there.)
i’m from a fractured family of brothers who tried to make a business work. from Muriel who nurtured her garden but didn’t do as well with her children. from Ruby who spent too many hours at the store and on the golf course, and smoked too many cigars.
i’m from cracked paint and faded couches; the girl hiding under a blanket in a drafty room.
i’m from a crooked house on a steep hill that rarely houses guests. from parents who were present but also not. from powerful magic love that made me feel invisible.
for too long a sense of obligation tethered me to all that grey.
i am done trying to please them.
time to take care of me.
Where are you from? Throw me one line.
• • •
This meme was very hot a while back, but I was not confident about sharing such a personal piece. Since then, I feel less afraid.
Thanks to Jenny Hansen for encouraging me to move beyond the first sentences and to Sharla Lovelace for inspiring Jenny. If you go to HERE, you will see this exercise is based on a poem by George Ella Lyon called “Where I’m From,” and if you’d like to try it yourself, the original link is there.