Where I’m From

Photo by Morten Andreassen on Unsplash
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.
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The book has launched!

Connie Kinsey, Writer-in-Residence for Museum of the American Military Family & Learning Center

The book has launched! I am awfully excited. The book is a project of the Museum of the American Military Family & Learning Center. Each chapter is anchored by an essay from one of the museum’s two writers-in-residence — one of them is me. The book is a serious look at gender, religion, race, identity, culture, and ethnicity in the armed forces. Active and retired service personnel, their spouses, and dependents were sent a survey asking about these things. Because the survey was completely anonymous, the open-ended questions generated additional stories from the respondents. A number of respondents agreed to contribute to the book. Thus, we have 276 pages of stories, photos, and quotes. A team of anthropologists provided a statistical analysis of the survey and their report is included as well. Though serious, the book is humorous, heartwarming, thought-provoking, informative, and infuriating — much like the military itself. This book will appeal not just to veterans, but to those who love them and want to understand their experiences. Proceeds support the museum and the writers-in-residence program.

You can read the official press release here

Cover Reveal

For the past 18 months, I’ve been one of two Writers-in-Residence for the Museum of the American Military Family. With other folks, we have crafted a book that looks at gender, religion, race, identity, culture, and ethnicity in military environments. We did ourselves proud. The book is still in press, but the cover is ready and I’ve been given permission to share. I can’t wait until this is out in the world!

Happy Military Brats Day!

I’m working on the final proofreading of the Museum of the American Military Family’s book, E Pluribus Unum: GRAICE Under Pressure (Gender, Religion, rAce, Identity, Culture, and Ethnicity in the Military/Family.) As one of two Writers-in-Residence for the museum, I have been heavily involved with this book since January of 2021. You can learn more about the museum here.

I just got my grubby hands on the proof. Oh my. I am so proud to be a part of this project. The book is chock full of essays (11 of them are mine), photos, and quotes from survey responses that gave the book structure. The survey respondents ranged from age 9 to 92. There is even a statistical analysis and report from two anthropologists. We did it proud!

The first essay I wrote was on Identity. I also made it into a digital story which you can watch now.

The walk down Memory Lane that I took while writing my essays was by far the best time I had while experiencing the Long COVID symptom of extreme fatigue. I tired very easily and slept a lot. I had dream after dream of my deceased father, my childhood, and my experiences of the GRAICES.

That walk and a promise I made to myself finally spurred me on to begin writing a memoir based on my experiences as a brat during the Vietnam War. The memoir is a labor of love and tears. I’m referring to it as a collage–it will hold traditional memoir fare, but also short stories and poetry I have written, excerpts from my father’s letters home during his four tours as well as parts from his memoir, Expendables: Vietnam Memoir. There may even be a recipe or two.

My identity is all kinds of wrapped around my experience as a military brat. In one of my essays, I ponder how it was that the first 14 years of my life so marked me that all these years later (I’m 62), I still think of myself as a military brat.

E Pluribus Unum: GRAICE Under Pressure will be printed soon and available for purchase.

I have eight more months left in my term as Writer-in-Residence and we are already underway with the next project. I hope it proves to be as much fun as this one. I would happily serve another two-year term, but I don’t think it works like that.