Taking Tea in the Kasbah

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.

William Shakespeare, A Midsummer's Night Dream, etsy.com

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.

photo credit ~ tlindenbaum

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.

33 thoughts on “And Though She Be But Little

  1. This piece makes me yearn for simplier days. I love the smell, sounds, and sights of your upbringing. It forced me to remember the greasy smell of my dad’s shop as I stood holding a tool. I knew it was an important job because my dad asked me to do it. 🙂 I ran barefoot in summer and came indoors only when called. I brought the firefly jar (yes, glass) that I wouldn’t let my sister hold. I was the boss. Or maybe just bossy. I must also mention that I love your photos.

    • Thank you, Brinda. I loved playing with the tools in the garage, though my dad didn’t like it so much. Something about not being able to find things when he needed them. I especially loved the thing he could lie down on and roll under a car. It was like a sled but with wheels. So much fun with that.

      I’m sure my sisters would say I was (and probably still am) bossy. I think it’s just one of my features. Besides, someone had to make the important decisions on the what, when, and how of our playtime. I just happened to come into the world first and so I had seniority. And as we all know, seniority = wisdom. 🙂

  2. on ,
    Anonymous said:

    Sounds like a nearly perfect childhood. It’s priceless that you remember and can pass it on to your children. Your Mom did good!

  3. on ,
    marcia said:

    That was a good read and enjoyable too, like running barefoot in green grass under eat-blue skies!

    • Thank you, Marcia! As always, I’m so appreciative of you taking the time to read and comment, especially since you could just turn your chair around in the office and tell me what you thought. 🙂

  4. I was right, Tami.

    When you commented on my blog, I think I said something like “High praise, indeed coming from such a prolific, lyrical writer.”

    Your words transport me back to your childhood memories, but many of my own as well. I’m sitting here smiling. That’s it. Just smiling and feeling warm and fuzzy.

    Thanks for that, and all of the wonderful words you craft in both your Kasbah, and your writing cave.

    • Your comment is making me smile. And blush. And then blush some more because of the high regard I hold for you and your writing.

      Thank you tons for the vote of confidence in me and my writing. It totally made my day.

  5. This is so absolutely perfect, rich, deep, and softly glazed by melancholy–only it’s the good kind that leaves us tender and a bit sad for times and remembrances carefully wrapped and tucked into the past.

    One of my all time favorite posts, Tami. If only there was a way to lift it gently and keep it as my own 😀

    • You have such a way with words, Barbara. You must be a writer or something. 😉

      Thank you, thank you, thank you for your lovely comment. As always, it means a lot to me that you take the time to stop by, read, and leave me a note in the kasbah.

  6. I’m from the peanut gallery, where we’re shrieking, whistling, and throwing bits of balled up paper onto the stage. What an awesome post!!
    You rock, Tami, and any time you worry about your mad skilz, you come talk to me and I’ll set you straight.

    • I’ve got a perma-blush going on today from all of these supportive, lovely comments. Thank you, Liv! Can I have you on speed dial?

  7. Tami, I completely love this post! Gloria is right – lyrical and evocative language and the pictures are wonderful.

    Thanks so much for the shout out…I’m having the best time reading all the results of this exercise. 🙂

    • Thank you, Jenny! You’re so welcome for the mention. I really loved what you shared in your version of this. It is such a great writing exercise and a thought-provoking way to encapsulate the past in a relatively succinct way. So glad you brought it to my attention on your blog.

  8. Tami, its totally clear that “Above all, I am from unconditional acceptance and love and the wisdom to know that I am lucky and fortunate because of that.” Awe-inspiring post.

    And, the idea of looking back at where we’re from comes at a perfect time. We’re downsizing our lives and will be putting our home of 30+ years on the market. Which means sorting through “countless heirlooms whose only true value lies in the fond memories associated with the previous owners.” As I do I’m going to be working on a blog of my own.

    Thanks so much for sharing.

    • Thank you for the kind words! I hope you (and other readers here in the kasbah) will write one of these on your blog. I would love to read it.

      Sounds like you have some big changes coming your way as you downsize. I’m sure that process will become creative inspiration for your own post. 🙂

  9. What’s happening? My senses are sharpened; my brain is operating on all cylinders; my heart is beating fast; my ears hear – my eyes see – my mouth tastes; my soul is laughing and crying at the same time. What in the world? Oh…yeah. I just read “And Though She be But Little,” Tami Clayton’s awe-inspiring blog! Well done, my friend. You put me right there with you…nailed my heart up on the wall of the garage overlooking all those Harley parts…sent me racing into the night to catch fireflies, …shared a finger full of cake batter with me. Thank you.

    • Wow! I’m so touched that this little ol’ post could do so much! I so appreciate your comment. It’s making my heart sing this morning. 🙂

  10. Thanks for sharing, and inspiring. I’m going to put my origins story down too.

    • Thank you and welcome to the kasbah! I’m so glad it’s inspired you to write one of your own. I hope other readers will do the same.

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  12. When this post appeared in my inbox, I could tell from the title it was going to be amazing. Didn’t get a chance to read until just now and I’m so glad I did. Such beautiful images. Thank you for this insight into you and your history. I’m with Liv, whistling and throwing popcorn! It’s no accident so many people are following your blog, Tami 🙂

    • Thank you, Ellen. I’ve been so touched by everyone’s supportive comments here. It truly means a lot to me.

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