Where I’m From

My personal take on the brilliant poem by George Ella Lyon.

I’m from Sour Cherry Jells, a candy my dad sold that made my tongue, my lips, and my teeth turn red, from Dixie Cups to drink cool water from the bathroom sink at night because it tasted better in tiny paper cups than what came out of the kitchen faucet into a glass.

I’m from Kool Aid ice cubes.

I’m from parents who this November will have been married for 62 years and are together still, who as far as I know have always been together, parents who raised three boys in a meat and potatoes home, who created a midwestern life in the 1960’s that allowed my den-mother-president-of-the-PTA mom to be home at the end of every school day to offer my brothers and me a snack and a reminder to change out of our “school clothes” before heading back outside to play.

I’m from Velveeta Cheese and Spam and Miracle Whip.

I’m from the smell of rosin bags, sweat, and baseball glove leather on the dry, cracked baseball diamond in the humidity of July, from scraped knees on the vacant lot we called “The Dirt Hill”, and the scary time I got the wind knocked out of me while playing football on the Elders’ front lawn.

I’m from KOIL radio and Casey Kasem and Stella’s hamburgers and “Trip someone, get a statistic!” the year I played ice hockey.

I’m from my dad driving home from Rexall on Saturday morning, the Racing Form open across the steering wheel.

I’m from the 1970 Topps hockey card set that started it all, that 23 years later was the down payment on a house, go figure. Melinda and I had a baby now.

I’m from night terrors so bad I’d scream until everyone in the house was awake, that forced my brother to convince my parents to disassemble our bunk bed and let him sleep in peace in the basement, to the absolute knowledge of what peace feels like when your mom lays in your bed next to you at 2am and strokes your head.

I’m from Dr. Oberst telling my parents that behavior modification would cure me, that responding to my screams was reinforcing them.

I’m from the chart on the refrigerator that awarded me points that translated into hockey cards if I could just keep quiet at night.

I’m from being hospitalized in 4th grade because I just couldn’t keep quiet, from tiny orange sleeping pills I proudly swallowed without water to electrodes being attached to my head to figure out why I was, why I was so, so…

angry
mad
frightened
scared
sad
unhappy
don’t you say crazy

the shame, the shame
the SHAME.

I’m from blocking it out, blocking it out, this “scared of the dark” thing, it’s my biggest secret, my hidden shame.

I’m from a temper so bad I would slam doors and scream, one time breaking a clock radio that belonged to my grandparents and that would play “The Last Song” by Edward Bear and “Me and You and a Dog Named Boo” by Lobo — did you know Boo meant grass which meant pot which meant marijuana, what’s that, the song got banned? Why?

I’m from my 3rd grade teacher pulling me by the earlobe in front of a gymnasium full of people present to see my parents honored as lifetime members of the PTA.

I’m from believing that’s what started all the shame, and then from realizing that my shame gave birth to my greatest strength, empathy.

I’m from Saturday morning speech therapy with Mrs Veizer, saltines and water, tongue thrusts and Th’s.

I’m from eighteen months with a headgear, 8pm to 8am, then another 18 months with braces, hey gang, that’s 3 years visiting Dr. Cameron not counting the retainers.

I’m from glasses at age 12. Glasses and braces, why not a red clown’s nose? Oh, I got that, too.

It’s called pimples, pimples and more pimples that I’m from.

I’m from the days I wore my mom’s cover-up to high school.

I’m from Salmonella Group D my senior year, the rectal biopsy, and praying, praying, praying to die — the stomach cramps were that bad.

I’m from Strat-O-Matic with Scott and the 1969 Minnesota Twins, César Tovar is a double A, 1–17.

I’m from bowling with Steve and yes I actually did bowl a 234 with 5 strikes in a row.

I’m from getting kicked off the bowling team my senior year after wearing a pink vest, tight black pants, mascara, and rouge to a party at the coach’s house.

I’m from door-to-door Mason Shoes and a work ethic that means you don’t stop until the job is done and you do your best, from a grandmother who gathered blackberries no matter how many times she was stung so we could have that cobbler and a grandfather who ate just one piece of candy after dinner because he cherished it more.

I’m from the still-dark silence of walking the neighborhood on weekend mornings to deliver The Seattle Times, my alarm going off at 4:52 to wake me, and the hustle of weekday afternoons to get the paper delivered by 5 while avoiding being bitten by that mean dog. 30 homes, $30/month.

I’m from Hunter’s Books and a 40 hour workweek at 17, closing the till and making a night deposit and my high school counselor saying no you can’t get Occupational Education credit for that.

I’m from second semester senior year sitting in accounting class, so bored, looking out the window, writing short stories, waiting to ace the tests so I could get the credit so I could graduate and get the heck out of there and why would I want to waste my time going to college?

I’m from Gray Whisper losing by a nose at 9–1 (I still have my two $10 win tickets) and Bokeet being sold to someone else but now Tom and I won’t be moving to Portland.

I’m from, “It’s time now for the marine weather, brought to you today and every day by Bob’s Market,” from Hank having brought me to Seward to “play radio” for a year.

I’m from Matt, and Si, and Kristopher, and Eric, and discovering I had something to offer children, that working with children was a calling.

I’m from all of this and more.

I’m from I wouldn’t change any of it, even if I could. I think that’s called privilege.

Yeah, I’m from that, too.

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