Origins | Get back to our roots. Where are you From? Is it California, Minnesota, China, Ireland, Earth? Do you know who you are? How you tell people where you are from, and why? Recently, I wrote about my accent, my language and the way that it marks me. People are constantly asking where I'm from, so my response to that question and this prompt feels like a story I'm always telling.
I believe there are several reasons for this:
I was raised by storytellers. All the women in my family constantly told stories about their lives, their pasts, stories they knew of relatives of travels. I wish I'd had the forethought to record some of these stories. If I have any regrets, it's that I don't have recordings of my Great Grandmother's voice, her laugh, her way of telling a story.
We were nomads. I moved a lot as a kid, every few years, so houses, street names, even friends were never what tethered me. My family, that was home. My grandparents' and my Granny's were home. A kitchen was home.
Growing up in the South, history never feels very far into the past. People are always giving you directions where something "used to be." We aren't good at letting stuff go, or moving fully forward; there's always some look back to the past. (I am not making a judgment whether this is good or bad. I do think it influenced my ancestors and thus, me.)
When someone asks me where I'm from, they typically are really asking about my accent. So, I say "Alabama" or "the Gulf Coast." But that's not the whole story, of course. My father's lineage is Irish and English, my mother's English and Scottish. I inherited the fair skin, the freckles, the love of story and language. But most of what makes me, my deep connection to the ocean, the desire to feed everyone, the ways I meander and get lost and can spend hours making small talk, which isn't small talk to me, at all, the way I love a pun, a clever turn of phrase, my belief in ghosts, and superstition, the way I first saw the world is because I grew up in the South.
But one of the things I've been thinking about lately, particularly as I talk to my students and note a significant difference between my experiences and theirs, is that I'm also a child of the 80's. I was a teenager and college student in the 90's.
I'm from walking to my friends' houses down the street, riding my bike downtown to the library or general store, buying candy with dimes.
I'm from Jem and the Holograms, Saturday morning cartoons, watching movies like Stand by Me and Footloose with my family.
I'm from Strawberry Shortcake, portable record players, 45's and very large boomboxes with double tape decks essential for making a mix tape.
I'm from Michael Jackson's Thriller and Madonna's Lucky Star, and from MTV as actual music television.
I'm from vibrant, neon colors, big high, wearing mismatched socks, skating rink birthday parties.
I'm from telephones with cords, winding around the kitchen into the dining room.
I'm also from the time of the AIDS crisis, hysteria, paranoia and fear, the Cold War, and Reagonomics, Just Say No, the Exxon Valdez spill, the Challenger disaster, John Lennon's assassination, Tiananmen Square, tylenol tampering, and the Fall of the Berlin Wall.
Sometimes I forget the importance of when I grew up. It factors significantly into how I was shaped, and how I see the world. It fixes me in the same way place does; it frames my girlhood in neon with the Footloose soundtrack in the background.