Thursday, August 23, 2018

Poetry Friday: The "I Am From" Project

I couldn't decide what to post this week. Yeats? Billy Collins? The always amazing Richard Wilbur?

I was dithering, so I started flitting around the Kidlitosphere and saw that Tabatha had posted a "Where I'm From" poem. (Hey, I remember those! I wrote one ages ago. Thank you, Tabatha, for this week's inspiration! W.B., Billy, and Richard will have to wait. Also? I'm stealing your idea to include a picture, Tabatha. I'm all about stolen ideas this week.)

Tabatha's post led me back to Heidi Mordhorst's blog, and this explanation of George Ella Lyon and Julie Landsman's beautiful project. Be sure to go here to check out the details of the I Am From Project, and consider writing one yourself.

In the meantime, here's where I'm from.

Me, age 7

I Am From 
Karen Edmisten

I am from knee socks,
Hostess cupcakes
and black patent leather shoes
worn home from the store.

I am from coast to coast,
from everywhere
and nowhere,
the child of a pilot and his bride.
I am from Air Force base housing,
plain vanilla walls
and Barbie clothes sewn from Thailand’s silk.

I am from hollyhock dolls and walking to school,
from dandelion bouquets,
from Alaskan glaciers
and from the sun rising on a Florida coast.

I am from summer car trips
to Grandma and Grandpa's,
with stops at Lookout Mountain
and the Truman Museum.
I am from staid New England stock,
from Indiana folks,
from John and Norma,
Madeline and Jim.
I am from lightning bugs in the backyard
and the sleepy scent of Noxzema.

I am from “Be polite” and
“Do your best,”
and “Goodnight, John-boy”
at bedtime,
from “I’m rubber, you’re glue,”
and from “Nuh-uh is not a word.”

I am from a squishy pillow at the drive-in,
and a six-year-old’s delight in the
dark, safe cocoon of the car.

I am from Santa Claus
and Easter eggs,
dinnertime grace,
and prayers
that faded away.

I am from Germany,
from home cooked meals,
doll-cakes on my birthday,
and home-sewn clothes
that made me proud of my mother’s skill.

From Grandma, who thought I loved peas
because I gobbled them up
(to get rid of them),
and from Grandpa, who convinced me
that a signal tower
was his own private Christmas tree.
I am from my grandmother’s way
of smearing butter on a scraped knee,
and taking me to “the groc'ry”
no matter what store it was.

I am from Mom, who decorated
the house for every holiday,
and took us blueberry hunting by the creek;
from Dad, who told me that thunder
was giants bowling in the sky,
and whose hand holding mine
was all I could see at the airport
when he came home from a year in Korea.

I am from Air Force brats bonding
through a shared, strange life,
from a 1960s family who taught me
without words
that “skin color” meant nothing
and “human being” meant everything.

I am from nomads,
from possibilities, and from imagination.

I am from a longing for roots, found finally, and only, in God.



Tabatha said...

So many great details! I love that Grandma thought you liked peas because you gobbled them up, and that your father's hand was all-absorbing at the airport. I'm wondering what hollyhock dolls are, and doll cakes (apparently the doll-related items are making me curious!).

Karen Edmisten said...

Hi, Tabatha! Thanks again for inspiration! :)

From the time I was about 4-6 years old, we lived in Spokane, Washington, and our neighbors had loads of hollyhocks. We made loads of hollyhock dolls. Here's a link explaining:

My mom was an elaborate cake decorator and she made cakes with a Barbie doll in the middle -- the layers of cake became the skirt. Here's a link to see what I mean: My sister and I always felt SO FANCY to have such cakes. :)

(Also? I am suddenly feeling very old, lol!)

Tabatha said...

Thank you for the links, Karen! Those hollyhock dolls are so sweet! Now I want to make one... (Pretty sure the Barbie doll cake is beyond me!)

Irene Latham said...

Karen, I love learning more about you and your rubber and glue and nomads and imagination... and that pic is ADORABLE! Thank you for sharing. xo

Karen Edmisten said...

Tabatha, the doll cake is totally beyond me, too. :)

Thanks, Irene! I was just over at your blog and I absolutely loved "Cello Love"!

Linda B said...

Love all the details shared in this loving poem, a good start to a memoir? I did a lot with flowers at grandparents' homes, including hollyhock dolls, precious things. I wish I could take my granddaughters to the drive-in. What fun it was! Thanks for all, Karen. a lovely "Where I'm From" poem!

Karen Edmisten said...

Thanks, Linda! How fun that we share hollyhock dolls. :)

We still have a drive-in in our state -- it's only about 45 minutes from my house. Bring your granddaughters and we'll pack pillows and snacks! :)

Michelle Heidenrich Barnes said...

What a treat to get to know you better today through your poem, Karen! For some reason I've always felt stymied when trying to write an "I am from" poem. But thanks to yours and Tabatha's, I think I might be a step or two closer to getting there. And BTW, I think the age 6 me in my post today would like to have a playdate with the age 7 you.

Margaret Simon said...

I love Poetry Friday when a thread starts and keeps going through multiple posts. Your poem is like a memoir of sorts. Love the conclusion and how you have come to understand who you really are.

Mary Lee said...

You and Tabatha both have "slam-dunk" endings for your poems. The specificity of your details is incredible, "the sleepy scent of Noxzema." These are definitely mini-memoirs, and the photo adds so much. While I was secretly hoping for Billy Collins or Richard Wilbur when I clicked in, I'm glad I got to know young you instead!

Karen Edmisten said...

Michelle, I love that you feel a little closer to writing an "I Am From" poem! And I'm on board with that playdate. :) You were such a cutie, with that Winnie the Pooh turteneck and earnest love for your teacher.

Margaret, thanks, and I agree -- it's always fun to see a thread running through Friday's posts!

Mary Lee, thank you, too, and maybe I'll invite Billy Collins or Richard Wilbur over next week. ;)

Linda M. said...

What a beautiful history you've woven in this poem. I love the heritage you include and the names of grandparents...the places. It's beautiful. So fun to see you take the idea and run with it. Just a lovely, lovely poem.

Kay said...

Such a rich poem with details that bring your past to life. I'm so glad people are sharing these this week. I'm going to have to find the one I wrote along with my students to share.

Karen Eastlund said...

Karen: We share a first name! There were 4 Karens in my class when I went to elementary school. Popular then. I enjoyed your poem very much and now I am in hopes of writing one. Mine will not have hollyhock dolls, though I wish I had known how to make them, but I will have beautiful dresses made by my mother, and homemade bread and sweet rolls, and Sunday afternoon rides. And walking to school with my big brother and sister on either side of me, swinging me in between. And a Charlie Brown Christmas tree. And laughing around the dining room table. I will have to think more on this. Thanks for the inspiration.

Kiesha Shepard said...

This is such a moving poem, Karen! I love all the details and special memories. This has to be one of my favorite types of poems to write. I invite teachers and students to try it all the time!

Robyn Hood Black said...

So glad you ran with inspiration from Tabatha's post, Karen. Though you are from many more "locations" than I came from growing up, still - I feel like we're from the same "place." SO many of these fantastic details resonate with me. (And, for some reason, I was thinking about Noxzema just the other day - ha!) Thank you for sharing.

Michelle Kogan said...

So many lovely bits and pieces here that you shared–I like those hollyhock dolls too, thanks Karen!

Karen Edmisten said...

Linda M., thank you so much! And I wish everyone could have known John and Norma and Madeline and Jim. :)
Kay, can't wait to see yours!
Karen/Name Twin, yes, our name USED to be popular. :) Looking forward to your I Am From poem, as you've already included lots of rich detail here!
Kiesha, thank you so much! It's such a great and inviting form, isn't it?
Robyn, enjoy your Noxzema memories. I always think of my grandma (Norma) when I smell it. :)
Michelle, thanks, fellow hollyhock doll fan! :)

Liz said...

We still have a drive-in in Vermont as well (in the town I loved in when I was in high school), but I never actually went to a drive-in until I was 18 (one of the sude-effects of growing up Pentecostal at that time and place). I love the poem, and learning new things about you.

Liz said...

And clearly I can't type well on my phone at 11 PM, and auto correct doesn't help at all...

Karen Edmisten said...

Liz, thanks so much, and I think everyone understands not being able to type on the phone! Lol!

Sonja said...

Thank you Karen for this poem. I felt that I was reading my story in so many ways! I grew up as the daughter of a career Navy/Coast Guard dad during the same time period. I can't wait to show my mom this poem.
Also I just heard you on the radio today being interviewed by Al Kresta and was happy to put a voice to your blog.

Karen Edmisten said...

Thanks, Sonja! How fun that we share such similar childhood memories. I hope your mom likes the poem! :)