BUT NOT THEIR HISTORIES OR THEIR STORIES
**********As you know, I celebrated my one-year blog anniversary on Sunday. I have rather gotten away from one of my main reasons in starting a blog, which was to preserve a record of myself and my family history for my daughter.
A poem by George Ella Lyons, called "Where I'm From”, is often used in writing classes as the basis of a writing exercise. Instead of Lyons’ descriptions, aspiring writers are asked to place their own words into a template using a series of prompts. I think it’s a legitimate exercise for someone who has trouble getting started writing. I certainly enjoyed doing it.
Here’s the “Where I’m From” Template:
I am from _______ (specific ordinary item), from _______ (product name) and _______.
I am from the _______ (home description... adjective, adjective, sensory detail).
I am from the _______ (plant, flower, natural item), the _______ (plant, flower, natural detail)
I am from _______ (family tradition) and _______ (family trait), from _______ (name of family member) and _______ (another family name) and _______ (family name).
I am from the _______ (description of family tendency) and _______ (another one).
From _______ (something you were told as a child) and _______ (another).
I am from (representation of religion, or lack of it). Further description.
I'm from _______ (place of birth and family ancestry), _______ (two food items representing your family).
From the _______ (specific family story about a specific person and detail), the _______ (another detail, and the _______ (another detail about another family member).
I am from _______ (location of family pictures, mementos, archives and several more lines indicating their worth).
GOLSPIE, SCOTLAND, LIVED TO THE AGE OF 101.
Here's my “Where I’m From” poem, or better, essay. It’s rather longer than the original – I guess I got carried away, I was having so much fun. But no apologies! (Kristen – this is for you.)
I’m from tennis shoes and one-speed bikes, from cherry Kool-Aid and Fizzies and Popsicles. I'm from reading books in the crook of a low-spreading elm tree. I'm from Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup and Franco American spaghetti. I’m from watching Captain Kangaroo and walking the train tracks and playing under street lights late into summer evenings. I’m from a one-room school, from games of “Red Rover, Red Rover” and “Pom Pom Pullaway.”
I’m from dry alkali “lakes” and sagebrush, from rolling hills with prairie potholes and land reclaimed from strip coal mining. I'm from lashing blizzards springing unsuspected from mild days. From crushing heat and sizzling thunderstorms spawning violent tornadoes.
THE MUNROS OF CROSBY, ND, 1940s.
MY MOM, MYRTLE OPAL, IS SECOND FROM LEFT IN THE BACK ROW.
I'm from lilacs against silvery weathered wood. I’m from purple prairie coneflowers and pasque flowers and loco weed, from the scent of yellow sweet clover wafting from the fields. I’m from mourning doves and red wing blackbirds and meadowlarks and squabbling king birds.
I’m from cotoneaster bushes and cottonwoods and Russian olives and messy box elders.
I’m from Highland shepherd “Willie Go Slow” and his adventurous, modern sons. I’m from Great-Grandmother Hughina, age 101. I’m from the Great Plains and immigrant trains. I from people of the Great Depression and the Greatest Generation.
I’m from Scots thriftiness and Norwegian self-effacement. I’m from oilcloth-covered tables and linoleum-covered floors and curtains, not drapes. I'm from full-length aprons and clothes drying on the line.
I’m from Grandma Julia’s and Grandpa Duncan’s sweet young romance; I’m also from the much later, not-so-secret “secret” of Viola, Grandpa’s mistress.
I’m from the Lutheran ladies’ aid, serving their church suppers of meat and cheese sandwiches, hotdishes, Jell-O with vegetables and good strong coffee. I’m from staunch, upright, no-nonsense Presbyterians on the other side.
ON THEIR WEDDING DAY - WHEN ROMANCE WAS IN BLOOM
I’m from “Uff-da” and “Ish-da” and “Cold (or hot) enough for ya?” I’m from Sunday drives, Sunday naps and Saturday nights in town.
I’m from Crosby, City of Northern Lights, and Larson, barely-there village. I’m from much-maligned Fargo on the banks of the Red River of the North.
I’m from the Munros and the Wangens, the Rockneys and the Codys. I am not from the Johnsons although that is my maiden name. I’m from a picturesque Scottish croft, a hardscrabble Norwegian farm, from icy blue fjords and emerald green hills. I’m from Celts and Vikings, fighting across the centuries, and fighting for ascendancy in me.
I’m related to football legend Knute Rockne and perhaps even to famed frontiersman Buffalo Bill Cody.
I’m from Grandma’s overwhelming love and Mom’s overwhelming shame. I’m from siblings following behind me like baby ducks trailing their mama.
I’m from little houses with big yards. I’m from sitting on the back steps at night to catch a cool breeze. I’m from farmers' caps and cowboy hats, from implement dealerships and rural electric cooperatives and the Soil Conservation Service.
I’m from wheat fields and combines and grain elevators. From county fairs, general stores cum post offices, yellow school buses.
THE WHITE BLOND HAIR IS MY NATURAL FATHER.
I’m from fried chicken or roast beef and pork Sunday dinners. I’m from “good old meat and potatoes, nothing fancy for us”. I’m from peanut butter sandwiches and chocolate drop cookies and raisin brown bread and sugar lumps dipped in coffee.
I’m from running to the bakery to buy Long Johns for “lunch” or going to the store for Grandma’s Half and Half. I’m from going to the movies or for ice cream sodas with Aunt Mary. I’m from returning to Grandma’s house from the swimming pool with the smell of chlorine in my hair and on my skin, and newly-blossomed freckles on my face.
I’m from Great-Uncle Jack’s World War I heroism, I’m from Grandma Julia’s childhood days in the old country, I’m from Grandpa Duncan’s immigrant turned successful businessman.
I’m from leaving home and loved ones for long voyages to the other side of the world. I’m from the gaping hole left by unanswered questions about my biological father’s family, the Rockneys and the Codys, with whom I'm forever connected and from whom I'm forever separated.
PACIFIC THEATRES WWII. THE GREATEST GENERATION.
I borrowed the template from Robyn’s blog, “Tales From Inglewood.” Be sure to read her delightful “Where I’m From” essay about Australia and her Cornish roots. (http://www.talesofinglewood.blogspot.com/).
If any of you tries this exercise, please let me know so I can read yours.