I Am From

I’ve done this before – probably more than once – but I found the template while I was deleting old files so I thought I’d do it again.

I am from chocolate flavored weight loss candy, from Tab and Fresca.

I am from the Museum District (which didn’t have a name then), from tree root-broken sidewalks, skinned knees, handkerchief-sized yards, roads with right angles, friends who accidentally smashed my toe nails with his big brother’s weights. I am from rickety swing sets that were mostly metal, from swings we swung so high we almost loop de looped. But not quite. I am from friends who pee in the alley and who trash pick treasures for forts.

I am from the weed trees, the lilac and hydrangea bushes, the dandelions that grow in the cracks. The crazy neighbor’s dogs behind three layers of fences.

I am from avoidance and silence, from Nancy and Dorothy and grandfathers never known. From Rocky, the grandfather who made up for all of it.

I am from the large noses and child bearing hips. From the shelves of art books covered in dust, from the pages of Little Nemo and Krazy Kat. From Picasso and Calder. From sunlight through shutters that showed the dancing dust as I moved from book to book all alone on a Tuesday afternoon. I am from house keys worn around my neck.

I am from “you can go when you’re older” and “we’ll see”. From “go to your room until your sorry”, from never being sorry. Not ever.

I am from St. Stephens Episcopal Church, full of Pappagallo shoes and Lilly Pulitzer wrap around skirts, and mysterious knowledge of things that were never explained, from “you can come and pretend to belong as long as you acknowledge that you’ll never be one of us.” From that to atheism in a few short steps. From Wine Socials and Golf God to No God at All.

I’m from Richmond, VA, by way of Norfolk and Great Falls; by way of England, Scotland and Germany; from deviled eggs and stollen. From hotdogs heated up in pans of water, from boxed mac and cheese, from salmon mousse with black olive eyes. From Julia Child and Chef Boyardee.

I am from the man who burned a hole through his bedroom floor with a chemistry set, from his father who set off fireworks from the fire escape just to scare the neighbors hidden behind their strings of laundry in the yard below, and from the horse farm that was out of reach and full of unspoken resentments, that was sold to become another faceless Northern Virginia subdivision. I am from plodding and small successes. I am from being creative but not TOO creative. From doing what is needed to get by. From drinking too much and eating too much and calling it fine. From yelling down the staircase and not really saying anything that can be taken back.

I am from a closet full of faded photographs of Mona Lisa smiles and itchy dresses, of shells and long ago vacant beaches, of friends come and gone, of old black humpbacked cars on ancient city streets, of bicycles and roller skates and disco lights, of birthday cakes with music idol faces, of cats and kitchens and rugs hung as backdrops to hide the scuff marks on the walls, to hide the regular dull ache of life that went on behind them.


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