This bit of writing (see below) was inspired, like so many others, by the original Where I’m From poem by Ms. George Ella Lyon, a writer and teacher who was lucky enough to be in-real-life friends with Tennessee poet Jo Carson. Carson’s work Stories I ain’t Told Nobody Yet is what inspired Lyon to write about where she was from, which happens to be Kentucky.
I recently attended a writing conference where one of the speakers led the group through an exercise to write our own versions of this poem. The only problem was, she wanted us to visualize one meaningful place that had significance in our childhood. I have trouble picking just one.
There were so many places that helped form me, so many people who shaped me, so many things that made me. While it would be impossible to give proper mention to all of them, I wanted to try and shed some light on some of the important ones.
What Makes Me
by Kate Spears
I am from the shirt factory, the tobacco field, the homestead and the barn loft.
I am from places that many people want to leave, but still there are others who stay. I am from people who picked up and moved. I am from people who put down roots and remained. I am from people as loyal as the day is long, and others who are fickle and change their mind with the seasons or whatever way the wind is blowing.
I am as loud as a fire-and-brimstone preacher and as quiet as a patient fisherman who understands the success of the day is the day itself, not what’s in the bucket.
I am from drawstring bags made of felt and filled with polished silver, from weathered barns piled high with junk that somebody else has to sort through after you die.
I am from green stamps, clipped coupons, and buy-one-get-one-free. I am from store-brands, and dented cans, Goodwill clothes and yard sale Tupperware. I am from waste nothing, want everything, and all you get out of life is what you enjoy.
I am from porches covered in Kelly green indoor/outdoor carpet. I am from pink formica countertops and kitchens that because there is no proper ventilation, smell of fried potatoes, cabbage and salmon patties long after the last bite has been eaten.
I’m from Levi Garrett, Kent Golden Light Kings, Vantage Ultra Light 100’s, and Marlboro Reds.
I am made of Mountain Dew, vy-eenie sausages, white half-runner beans, and red-eye gravy. Of honeysuckle and wild blackberries, poke sallet, hydrangeas and fried apple pies.
I’m from people who sang Amazing Grace, from people who sat on the back row of the church, and some who never darkened the door.
I’m made from people who washed feet, worshiped under the brush arbor and ate dinner on the ground.
There’s a tall maple tree outside my kitchen window. And soon, the helicopters will flutter away. My tree was once a helicopter growing on a tree that was also once just a helicopter. And back, and back, and back.
And so it goes for the things that make us. Nothing is new. Everything is a part of everything else. You carry it all with you so that one day, it will grow again.