Where I’m From

Guys, I am not normally one to write poetry, but this was just too fun not to share. As you may know, I’ve been in a writing course for the past couple months with author Allison Vesterfelt. Her goal is to help writers as writers, not just help their writing. A big part of that is helping us discover our voices and really claim our messages, and part of that means delving into who we are as individuals and the experiences that have shaped us.

I’m excited to share more with you soon about what I’ve been writing – and what’s coming in that book I announced recently! – but in the meantime, I wanted to share this exercise with you and invite you to give it a shot. Personally, it helped bring to light some of the unique experiences that have made me who I am, and it helped me better understand what I want to share through my writing. Even if you’re not a writer, my hope is that this exercise could at the very least give you some space to process how your growing up years have shaped you. And, taking it further, it could help provide some of the certainty and clarity you need to move forward with whatever is in front of you: motherhood, a new job, marriage, or just learning to rest and settle into who you are. Whatever’s facing you right now, I hope this helps you walk into that season with a better understanding of where you’ve been.

The “WHERE I’M FROM” Exercise: Okay, so the basic idea is to give some space and thought to your childhood. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you smell or taste? What traditions come to mind? What people are most prominent in your memory? Write it all down, and get as specific as possible. Take 5-10 minutes to do this.

Now, you could just leave it there. But if you really want to consider how those details and memories are part of your story – how they make you uniquely you – you might enjoy putting this into a form that you can hold onto and reflect on. Maybe a poem? (If that word alone just makes you gag, don’t worry, this is totally low-commitment poetry here.) For inspiration, you can take a look at my poem below or the original “Where I’m From” poem by George Ella Lyon.

While everyone’s childhood has some elements of sadness or dysfunction, I’m guessing there are also some beautiful things that you’ll call to mind working through this exercise. And I hope in reflecting back, it brings you joy.

WHERE I’M FROM

I am from Grandma and Grandpa Richardson.

From currant-studded waffles and Georgian accents

thick and sweet like syrup.

From petticoats I refused to wear and silk slips and wigs

that hid her frailty and thinning hair.

I am from Mimi and Papa Zoeller.

From Arkansas summers, all rivers and rocks,

smooth and cool under my toes.

From dark skies and fireflies

and warm, soft air filled with the call of cicadas.

I’m from peanut butter sandwiches on plain white bread.

From refusing dinner but never dessert.

From “a moment on your lips, forever on your hips”

and always “may I be excused, please?”

I’m from backyard jungles and swinging

beneath the giant elm tree.

From lava rocks and make believe.

From playing house and doctor and teacher and dancer.

From stick-on star earrings and pink lipstick.

From ivory keys and grass-stained knees

and pink ballet tutus and aiming to please.

I’m from “Jesus loves me, this I know.”

From candy earned for each verse I learned,

basking in the Sunday school teacher’s praise.

But I’m also from the outskirts of the playground politics.

From being picked last, or never at all, to play

dodge, kick, or any kind of ball.

I am from Daddy’s leather chair and majestic grand piano,

always dancing and performing,

delighting in Lisa’s giggles and directing our shows.

From “Twinkle, twinkle, little star,” and “How I wonder what you are.”

From twirling around until we all fall down

and turning in when Daddy plays the final song.

I am from Mommy’s gentle hands, curling my hair up in pink rollers.

From stuffed animals ordered neatly on my bed,

an army of fluffy, warm, and soft friends.

From glow-in-the-dark constellations and silk ribbons,

running them through my fingers like childhood rosaries.

From “warm as a toaster” and “bedtime for bonzo.”

From “night, night, sleep tight” and prayers like amulets,

protecting me until I’m asleep, book on my chest,

mouth wide open.

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