I am from moving boxes and the smell of kiwi shoe polish on combat boots. I am from a home that was a group of people not a place. Where the only constant was the Naugahyde sofa my brother teethed on, And being the new kid. I am from cross country road trips on Rt. 66 and missing an exit in St. Louis. The Wigwam motel in Arizona and bathrooms you had to put a dime in the slot to use the toilets. From mountains and oceans and deserts and verdant forests. New telephone numbers and addresses and looking at maps to fix myself in space. From “Daddy do we need gas yet?” and not “are we almost there?” Where network television offered a constant – I watched Gilligan’s Island in California, Hawaii, Virginia, North Carolina and then as re-runs in every state since then. I am from You don’t sound like you’re from around here. I am from the places that when folks ask where I’m from, I say everywhere and nowhere. I am from taps at sunset and men chanting cadence while running, standing with my hand over my heart at the movie theater when the national anthem was played, And classmates whose fathers never came home. Long-stay motels while waiting on housing and using an ironing board to do the worksheets my last teacher gave me to work on until I got back in school again. 30-day leaves, the ever-present green Stanley thermos in the car of the moment, and crisp uniforms. And not being able to hang anything on the always white walls. New churches, new schools, new friends, and all new clothes for the new climate. I am from 29 addresses before I was 26. And now I am from a ramshackle barn in a ramshackle state where I’ve lived and loved for 37 years. On a dirt road where home is now a place as well as a group of people. Where I hang things on colorful walls and throw boxes away. Where I’ve had the same phone number for eons and friendships older than a couple of years. I am from Almost Heaven and happy to be here.
In 1993, George Ella Lyon wrote her poem Where I’m From. It went viral and is still in use today in writing classes – often as a prompt for one’s own Where I’m From poem.
I’ve been given this poem as a writing prompt several times now. Each time the end product is different – a testament to my rootless youth. This version is the most complete, I think. I had fun writing it.