Thursday, August 25, 2011

Writing Me: Where I'm From

circa 1975

I am from electric street lights flickering on at dusk, from Tupperware-stocked kitchens and chiming ice cream trucks touring the neighborhood to announce summer's arrival.

I am from the littlest of three bedrooms, the dripping clothes left in heaps in the family room, soaked in rain or snow or straight from the pool, the smell of tar from a hot roof, and the lullaby of Mom singing, dishes being washed in a ceramic sink, and the rush of traffic on the highway.

I am from the oaks and maples that line the street, meeting overhead in a vaulted ceiling, the backyards of berry bushes and vegetable gardens, and the grass that always grows in sidewalk cracks but never where the city allegedly seeded it.

I am from summer road trips to the Midwest and smiling blue eyes, from Aunt Jeanette's cabin in South Dakota and Brophys and Dagelens, two families who attended the same reunions because they were joined by my grandparents' marriage.

I am from the observations that made us aware of social injustice and regular trips to the public library.

From "you have your mother's smile" and "such beautiful red hair."

I am from Mass on Sunday and family Rosary on the drive home from Grandpa's house, my Mary statue, cracked from too many falls, and Bible stories, fasting in Lent and feasting at Christmas, real answers to my theological questions and a deep abiding faith in God's endless love for me.

I'm from Rochester General Hospital, the wild beauty of the Burren, the blended culture of Alsace-Lorraine, angel food cake with frozen strawberries on birthdays and grilled cheese from Dad.

From the comedy of errors when our extended family stayed at the B&B managed by stingy Morris, the Nestle boycott that Dr. Jack Brophy (aka Grandpa) single-handedly revealed to be woefully misled, resulting in a change of diocesan policy, and the atom bomb tested in New Mexico, witnessed by a young man who at that time hadn't yet married my Grandma.

I am from a Formica shelf full of scrapbooks with pictures, newspaper clippings, and memories from the last hundred years, carefully archived by my mother. From my Grandma's cedar hope chest, passed among female relatives and currently treasured by me. From songs passed down from one generation to the next, even now being planted with care in the heart of my son. From framed pictures on the piano, including Grandpa as a gowned toddler among his sisters, still managing to look tough, my brother at the hospital after he broke his leg, and both of my Grandmas full of youth and beauty. From old letters and Christmas cards, saved for reminiscing and becoming increasingly precious as more of the authors find their way Home.

Where I'm From is a Community Writing Project inspired by this prompt. I discovered this project via Hyacynth at Undercover Mother.


  1. Just beautiful, Cat.
    I really enjoyed getting to know you better through this post.

    I am planning a post like this, but later in the fall.

  2. Thank you. I look forward to reading yours!

  3. I LOVE this. I could FEEL your descriptions. Picking raspberries all day and then mashing them up to make our version of sorbet. Loved those berry bushes!

    Great writing :) Really enjoyed this post.

  4. @Mlle. Michael: Thank you! You were definitely a highlight of my childhood. I think about you often when I am at my parents' and see your old house.

    @Lisa: It's fun! I'd love to read yours if you decide to do it.

  5. You've got to admit the hair really IS beautiful and I am sure you heard that all the time growing up. The photo is priceless. The bow tie and suspenders....clothes make the man!

  6. The last sentence really did it for me. Beautifully written. Very different from my own.

  7. @Polish Mama: Thank you for visiting and taking time to comment. I really enjoyed reading your post, as well as your conversation yesterday with your dad about leaving Poland. I admire your honest writing.