Catherine Jackson: EarnestGirl Chronicles


Where I'm From

What Stories Will You Tell?

I am from the prickly shelter of chestnut trees and stern stone houses built to weather the cold. I am from Colour TV and square fading baby pictures with dogs and cats and horses in every one.

I am from half way up the mountain with bicycles on the sidewalk and back doors unlocked. I am from dreams of escape beneath a Holly Hobby quilt, from kitchen haircuts and homemade corduroy dresses I secretly loved, from long trips in wood-paneled family wagons to far flung stony shores.

I am from my mother’s ruby geraniums in patio planters and my grandmother’s frowzy generous vegetable garden. I am from sunrooms and manure.

I am from being seen and not heard. I am from polite kisses on both cheeks and nothing difficult said out loud.

I am from a long line of first-born girls. You can count backwards on our names all the way to Wales.

I am from the usual histories of mistakes and secret loves and broken promises. I am from stories I’ll never know. I am from many somethings old, somethings new, somethings borrowed and plenty of blue. No one gave me away. I am none the worse for it.

I am from come out of your room when you have a smile on your face so I went to the barn where I could haul hay and muck in heat and dirt and ride ‘till the wind scrubbed my face free.

I am from the books that have kept me afloat, that take me away and lead me home again. Between their covers I have made quiet chapels.

I am from two kitchens, the one I knew and the one I have made. In both there are dogs underfoot, and all the parties end up there, with the mess and the wine glasses mixed up on the counter. In this one we sing at the table. In this one I summon my mother with cinnamon and applesauce and recipes written in her hand.

I am from military men and resourceful women. I am from battered silver serving spoons wrapped in felt and handed down. I am from pitchforks. I do not know where I am going, but I know I’ll need both.


What stories do you tell your children about where you are from, and what are you trying to communicate when you do? I find myself telling the “you are not so hard done by” stories too often. The “I never got to go out to dinner” lecture, the “do you appreciate how lucky you are?” stories.

There is value in the other ones too, even the difficult ones. So many family stories are lost. I was inspired to explore Where I Am From by reading Schmutzie’s beautiful "Where I Was From When I Was Seven: Bearing Down Upon The Buoy" and Two Busy’s thoughtful "Where I'm From" reflection. If you want to give it a try yourself, the form and original poem are here.