Where I am From
I am from Annie-I-Over and London Bridge, the upstairs trunk filled with my mother’s Eastern Star formals and my older sister’s discarded prom dresses.
I am from backyard cherry trees and grain sacks piled in the old cinder block garage. From the lame dog that dad named the arithmetic dog because he put down three and carried one. From that winter when the two little Judd girls froze to death on the prairie during a snow storm, their linked gloved hands rising from the snowdrift, the glove from the other hand of each found in the pockets of their father, who perished a mile away, having remained with his exhausted daughters once they couldn’t go on, holding a hand of each daughter until he knew they were gone.
I am from sounds in the prairie night. That sudden popping noise and choruses of mice families in the walls, my oldest sister in late from the Vivian dance, trying to sneak quietly up the wooden stairs to our upstairs all-girls loft, my middle sister in her purple bedroom, me in my yellow and red with the green linoleum, my oldest in her green and black and white checked refuge whose windows opened up to the front porch roof and sunbathing a story above pesky neighborhood boys with ice water in glasses or simply inquisitive eyes.
I am from the creak of playground swings in the schoolyard across the street. From our neighbor’s cocker spaniel that they let me pretend was mine, me cross-legged in the dirt of their front yard in Levis and a checked shirt with my dog in the triangle of my legs.
I am from Frosty Freezes and Mowell’s Drug Store. Cherry phosphates and chocolate Cokes, Russian Peanuts and love comics I could only buy if they were at the bottom of the stack I bought ten at a time—my entire week’s allowance. My mother’s instructions only countermanded by the cooperation of Jack Mowell, who never looked beyond the top three in the stack. Archie and Veronica, Casper the Ghost, Richie Rich and then—Love for the duration of the stack.
I am from hay rides and watermelon feeds at the Thomas family farm down by the river. Wood ticks and sand bars that sucked you in. I am from White River boys and mean White River girls who said they were their boys and to leave them alone. I am from a sudden stubborn nature that didn’t listen and so had my first kiss standing in the field between two cars––one being my car with Jones County plates, the other the car of a Mellette County boy from White River who would make me dizzy as often as we could arrange it for the next two years.
I am from Job’s Daughters and 4-H, the apron I spent all summer sewing that made it to the State Fair where the judges declared it to look “hastily made.”
I am from a book handed to me at the age of 16 that began, “Listen, Violet, I am going to tell you a wonderful story and it’s all about the birds and the bees.”
I am from choke cherries and meadowlarks, riding in the backs of pickups, picking up pop bottles along the highway ditches, and bouquets of sweet clover and alfalfa and snake grass. Stealing corn from the neighbor’s fields and overnights in our own fields down by the river to switch the irrigation pumps at midnight, my older sisters in a wrestling match, throwing each other in the irrigation ditches and my dad’s ghost story ending in “You’ve got my golden hand” and his hand descending from the pitch black to grab my upper arm.
Screams under the summer stars and the half-full moon. The yip of coyotes and an occasional marauding coon. All the spirits of departed Sioux natives and homesteaders as well as a few ghosts of our own. Perhaps ourselves coming back to investigate our pasts. Haunted by the whole surrounding vast emptiness of rolling plains and empty skies between the vast amount of stars and grass and seeking souls who frequented those spaces that made the emptiness not empty but full of things with space enough to grow and move into whatever we were becoming.
I published this for Mary who asked for more results from the exercises we did at our writing retreat a few week ago. I believe this was a 20 minute timed writing to the prompt, “Where I Am From”. If you’d like to tell us where you’re from, please link your essay in the comments below!