I have always hated to be asked where I am from. It’s just a complicated question. Usually, I just resort to naming the latest place I have lived. So, now that I’m in Kentucky, I tell folks I am from Nashville. When I was in Nashville, I told folks I was from Johnson City. So on and so forth. I have just lived too many places to really say that I am “from” any of them.
The other day I wanted to make a comment to a friend on Facebook about the town she lived in and I couldn’t remember which town I knew her from. I actually had to go to her profile to make sure I had my memories straight. I’ll be honest. It kind of made me sad.
Where am I from?? Shoot, sometimes, I don’t even remember where I am now!
Maybe it’s silly, but I have struggled with this. I always wanted to be one of those people that lived down the street from where they grew up. I wanted to be able to point to places around town and tell my children, “I remember when…” My dad was born and raised in Ohio and he is forever telling stories of his childhood and young adult days. He will turn to me and say, “You remember that store on the corner of State Street?” No. I don’t. “Remember that truck I had when you were little?” No. I don’t. I just don’t remember much. All of my memories get jumbled together until I don’t know if they are real or just things I dreamed.
But, when my mother texted me and said, “Mitch has cancer.” I remembered that man as if I had just seen him yesterday. I have no memories of my maternal grandparents. My mom’s dad died before I was born and her mom died when I four. I do, however, remember Mitch and his wife, Jokie. I can see their faces in my mind as plain as day. They took care of my brother and me when my grandmother was in the hospital. I may not remember much about them, but I know that they were a safe place.
Mitch passed away in just a couple of days and I felt the strangest loss. I haven’t seen him in probably twenty-five years. I don’t know why it bothered me so much. I think, maybe, because he was a little piece of where I am from. It occurred to me that I may not have a specific house or town that I can point to say, “There is where I’m from.” I do, however, have people.
People ask where I’m from and, I know, it seems weird when I struggle to respond. The truth is that it’s an easy question with a complicated answer.
I’m from a group of kids who lived in a time when you could still ride your bike all over the neighborhood and not go home until supper. I’m from fall festivals and fresh green beans and carrying milk jugs to grandma’s once a week because we had well water.
I’m from an aunt’s house where I spent many days watching Bed knobs and Broomsticks and growing up with a cousin I loved like a sister.
I’m from an elementary school in Ohio, a middle school in South Carolina and a high school in Tennessee and I have great memories of friends in each one.
I’m learning to be okay with my seemingly rootless existence. I may not be from a certain map dot, but I am from a lot of great people.