Where I’m From

I am from a glass-fronted bookcase full of antique red-spined Baedeker guidebooks, a black and white photograph of my mother sailing a small dinghy at the age of eight, and the smell of pipe smoke.

I am from a Victorian two-family home in North Cambridge with a turret, one bathroom, a back hallway that my sister and I painted one summer, a short-lived guinea pig called Caliban, and a navy blue Volvo that I coaxed to life from the backseat on winter mornings, chanting “Go car, go!”

I am from a French school with a tall green gate and a rabbit by the front door, from a playground with a baguette under my arm, from the pond in the Jardin Luxembourg where people sailed their remote-controlled boats.

I am from an all-girls school London with an intimidating brass door handle, an elegant marble-floored “Great Hall,” and the soaring voices of hundreds of girls singing “Tomorrow shall be my dancing day” in a candlelit December evening.

I am from the top of a European church spire, the crypt of the basilica in Assissi, and a formal confirmation ceremony in St Paul’s Cathedral.

I am from a tiny apartment in Paris with thick velvet curtains full of dust and ladies of the night in the entryway, from a garret ballet studio with an elderly teacher barking commands, and from a tiny Thanksgiving roast chicken with a single strand of cranberries draped on its back.

I am from a linoleum-floored kitchen where you wait to go to the garden to cut the asparagus until the water is already boiling and a rose-strewn back porch with a big picnic table and a swing that rocks back and forth on springs.

I am from albums upon albums of family photographs, all anotated in my father’s fountain pen script, from two ceramic angels hanging on the living room bookcase, from an annual solstice celebration on December 21st at 11pm.

I am from Mount Gay and Nantucket Reds and Bird Island lighthouse and eight children piled into a ranch house on a point in Mattapoisett, Massachusetts.

I am from Priscilla and Henry and Janet and Lawrence, from Susan and Kirtland, from Rhode Island and Long Island, from a thick, much-paged hardcover book with “Whitman” embossed on the red cover in gold leaf.

I am from sailors and engineers and Yankees, from frugality and pride and hard work. I am from traveling around the world to come back to right where I started.

Inspired by this template, the exercise of which I love.

24 thoughts on “Where I’m From”

  1. I want to thank you for this. I sat down this morning and wrote one of my own on my blog, and it was a beautiful trip through some places and memories that I hadn’t set foot in for years.

  2. I’m so glad to hear that! I loved sifting through my own images and memories, and am really pleased that you did too. I can’t wait to read about where you’re from.

  3. This is excellent. (And I love that template; cool concept!) Even though you don’t describe where you’re from in the traditional way (or maybe because of that) I really feel like I have a tangible grasp on it.

  4. Fascinating. You, of course, are gentle and entrancing and joyful in your own melancholy way.

    The template, also, is fascinating. The fragments of memory, perhaps whole in our own minds (although perhaps not), woven together in a delicate memoir, a jumbled day dream whispered with reverence and awe. A task I’m afraid to take on, that, with this tool, I just may.

    Hugs and butterflies,

  5. So beautiful. I did this exercise/writing prompt just a few months ago with a few friends–it was fun to do and really amazing to hear how other people approached the exercise. Your words are gorgeous.

  6. I’m the author of the original “Where I’m From” poem and I love yours–how it moves through places and times in your life with such rich detail and how it comes home.

    I was just Skyping this morning with middle-schoolers who are working on their WIF poems. Amazing how poetry travels!

    You can hear me read the original on my website, and there’s also a page about further writing from your WIF poem. Not that you need suggestions. You seem to know how to let your voice lead you.

    Write on!

  7. Wow! What a thrill and an honor to hear from you here. I adored your poem and will certainly listen to you read it … I am so grateful that you commented here. Thank you.

  8. I think you spread something Lindsey. I used the template too for a post. I wonder how mine will change as I continue this archeological dig through my past that I am on. Yours is beautiful.

  9. How inspiring. Please accept my copycat apologies, as I’m sure I’ll be posting my own version of this on TDT sometime soon. With my whole family coming to town for Labor Day I have thoughts of heritage on the brain anyway.

  10. This is one of my favorite things you have written here. I love, love, love it. You know where you are from, and I can only imagine where you are going. xo

  11. I’m inspired by this…and also a bit intimidated. (But in a good way.) I love how everything builds to the ending, which ties in so perfectly with your blog line: One woman’s journey to right here.

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