I was inspired to write this “Where I’m From” post after reading the deeply moving posts by fellow bloggers Jenny Hansen and Gloria Richard (both of whom were inspired by Sharla Lovelace from whose blog the template for this exercise was taken). Their answers painted such vivid pictures of their families and the poignant moments that shaped who they are today. They got me thinking about my family and my childhood.
It also got me thinking about those unspoken, yet powerful and enduring messages that get passed down from parent to child, messages that are buried deep and not revealed until you see yourself through your child’s eyes and hear yourself through your child’s ears and think “Where the hell did that come from?”
Such is self-reflection, that multi-layered beast that will hold open the door to enlightenment and growth when you approach it with brutal honesty. And when you don’t, it will block your entrance and be all “Sorry, pal. Says here you’ve used up all of your free passes on the Denial Train. Come again tomorrow.”
So, while listening to my melodramatic “Haunting Memories” playlist, I sat down to reflect on those things from my past, look at the how’s and why’s of my character-shaping moments, and remind myself from where I come.
I am from laughter and playful teasing, board games at the kitchen table, and books in every room in the house. I am from tire swings in the old willow tree, bikes with sparkly banana seats, building snow forts in winter and capturing fireflies in jars in summer. I am from climbing trees and planting gardens. I am from being the oldest of three girls and always having someone to play with and boss around as needed.
I am from putting family first and from integrity and honesty being the guide posts to achieving anything you set your mind to. I’m from unspoken rules to not bother others or rock the boat with trivial needs or wants, from grown-ups who carried the unfair burden of old, ingrained messages saying you don’t matter or count. I’m from perseverance, rising above adversity, putting others before yourself, and lending a hand when you can and even when you can’t.
I’m from the flat prairies of northern Illinois, where suburbia encroached on farmland, where you can practically drink the humid summer air, where bundling up with knitted woolen scarves in winter is a must, where you can see for miles and miles across fields unimpeded by a single tree, where the rows of corn were straight and tidy like the books and curios on the bookshelf in the living room. I’m from the tiny suburb no one’s heard of until you mention the gorgeous arboretum where many a long walk was enjoyed in spring and autumn.
I’m from pre-WWI Germany and a ‘Heinz 57’ assortment of European ancestry. I’m from hard-working laborers of the land who would have scoffed at time spent on the internet. I’m from suspender-wearing gardeners who could grow anything and for most of their lives did just that.
I’m also from artists, creatives and a long line of strong women. I’m from survivors of unspoken atrocities who never once considered it an option to let it cycle in to my generation. I am from heartbreak, grief, loss, shame and betrayal that time has yet to heal. I am also from forgiveness and the ability to see the good in people.
I am from celebrating birthdays like holidays, handmade Halloween costumes, putting up Christmas decorations the day after Thanksgiving, hours spent doing art projects, dance parties with Elvis and Elton John, and numerous pretend rock band performances with umbrellas and wooden spoons for instruments.
I am from grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup lunches on cold winter days, my mother’s crispy fried chicken, homemade gravy, and heaping piles of mashed potatoes. I am from Sunday morning doughnuts and the intoxicating smell of coffee brewing in the percolator. I am from gingerbread houses, dozens and dozens of cookies, and homemade birthday cakes decorated to exact specifications. I am from taking turns with my sisters on who got to lick the beaters and the lucky one who got to lick the bowl.
I am from mechanics who hold a deep fascination with cars and motorcycles, from dismantled Harleys spread out in the garage in the winter to clean every part, from getting to drive the odd golf cart, vintage ice cream truck, or bizarre three-wheeled scooter around the yard with my sisters (and only crashing once when (*cough*) the brakes went out just before slamming into the back porch).
I am from long drives at sunset with the top down on the convertible and ice cream at the Dairy Queen on the way home. I am from antique sewing machines that still work and books with yellowed pages. I am from countless heirlooms whose only true value lies in the fond memories associated with the previous owners. I am from reels and reels of silent family movies capturing toothy grins, gangly arms and legs, and the general goofiness of being a kid in front of camera.
Above all, I am from unconditional acceptance and love and the wisdom to know that I am lucky and fortunate because of that.
How about you, introspective readers? Where are YOU from? What indelible moments of the past do you bring forth into your present? Who or what has shaped who you are today? The tea is ready, the cushions are fluffed. Sit a while, reminisce and share.