Where I’m From

Photo by Noelle Otto on Pexels.com

Last week I had the joy to speak to a friend from a lifetime ago. We actually met in first grade and graduated high school together. Like many, we reconnected on social media several years ago, and I have since been able to keep up with some of his many successes and adventures. I reached out to pick his brain for some ideas and to gather his thoughts on a new opportunity geared to help local youth in my community. Being in different time zones and having too much information to type, we coordinated a time to talk one evening. I was so excited to talk with him! It had been too many years since I had heard his voice. The very first thing I noticed was the absence of his southern, small-town, North Carolina accent – and the glaring presence of mine. The minutes that followed brought laughter, stories, and much reminiscing about the little town where we grew up.

Several years ago I took a graduate class called, “Diversity in Children’s Literature”. The professor was exceptional and an outstanding educator. One of the first assignments she gave us was to read the poem by George Ella Lyon, “Where I’m From”. http://www.smithsonianeducation.org/educators/professional_development/workshops/writing/george_ella_lyon.pdf

We were to take the framework of the piece and rewrite it to make it about our own lives in order to introduce ourselves to the class. Here’s what I came up with for mine:

Where I'm From                                                                                                                             By: Elizabeth W. Sharpe -with thanks to George Ella Lyon

I’m from Ivory soap, sheets drying on the clothesline, and fly swatters on the screened-in porch.
I’m from the pines and the dogwoods
And the Japanese Cherry tree in the
Front yard at the end of the street.
Running through the sprinklers with my feet all covered in wet grass and fireflies flickering in
Mayonnaise jars with holes punched in the lids.

I’m from tomato sandwiches, fried okry, and a mess of peas;
I’m from patent leather shoes and lace leotards bunched up at my toes Penny loafers and pink espadrilles, mood rings and feathered bangs;
Week-long revivals at the Baptist church, long tables full of casseroles, and summers of Vacation Bible School.

I’m from The Brady Bunch and Captain Kangaroo; from The Bee Gees and the Captain and Tennille.
Making paper fortune tellers, chewing Fruit Stripe gum, and
Wearing roll-on lip gloss – in strawberry.
I’m from kickball marathons in the backyard and taking my turn cranking the ice cream freezer On the patio.

I’m Bobby and Bonda’s girl – you know, Seymore and Myrtle’s boy?
I’m from picnics, festivals, and covered dish lunches;
Hearing, “Hey, Sug! How’s my girl?” and, “Y’all come back!” And the station wagon with the wood panels down the side.
I’m from shelling peas and stringing beans til my fingers hurt and “because I said so!”; Tupperware parties, Polaroids and watching home movies
With no sound.

I’m from a time that doesn’t seem all that long ago,
But is.
Under my bed are pictures, trinkets, and letters from pen pals;
Memories, pressed flowers, and keepsakes…..
One day I’ll tell my children all about them
So they will know where they are from, too.

Without a doubt, this was one of my all time favorite assignments. I was surprised to note the things of my childhood and upbringing that stood out as significant as I reflected on a time long ago. It wasn’t the vacations, big events or celebrations – just the opposite. What came to mind were the seemingly small moments that, if you weren’t careful, might go completely unnoticed. So vivid were the smells of the strawberry lip gloss and gum, hearing my Grandmother’s voice saying, “How’s my girl?”, and the faces of my Sunday School teachers. Within seconds I was transported back to my front yard running in the grass catching “lightening bugs” at sundown. I’m from a much simpler, slower time – a time where technology was a routine part of Captain Kirk’s life, not mine. In my small town there were neighbors visiting under shade trees, town festivals, unlatched back doors, and prayer meetings. We only had a couple of policemen and a doctor who would drop by to see how you were doing. Looking back, it almost seems imaginary. Small towns have a way of holding you close or keeping you trapped – depending on how you look at it, I suppose. In mine, most stayed close, few left, some came back. Perhaps that’s just the way it is.

My friend and I both left our little hometown, but as we continued to talk and share over the next hour, it was apparent how the influences of “where we were from” had impacted our lives. Many of those influences were positive, some not so much. All of them had a hand in guiding us to our present places of conviction and resolve. I was reminded that we are a collection of all the experiences and influences in our lives – good and bad. We grow, we leave. We take the parts that made us and carry them out into the world. Some parts we keep, some we discard, and some we tuck away never to be forgotten. Maybe we come back to where we’re from, or perhaps we don’t. Wherever we go, whatever we become, however we change, there are always the pieces of our lives that we carry with us – the pieces that helped to make us who we are. The pieces that never let us forget where we are from.

I hope you will find the good – and the lessons – in all the pieces of where you are from!

Sincerely,

Beth

Published by Elizabeth Sharpe

My name is Elizabeth Sharpe, but to most, I'm just "Beth". I am a wife, mom, educator, and lover of all things good and kind. I love to share my stories and reflections to connect with others. It is my hope to encourage and inspire readers in some small way as we journey life together.

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