Thursday, December 28, 2006

I Am From

I encountered this at Julie's blog. The template is here. Scroll down a little less than half the page to find it.

I am from a rope swing in a tall pine, from running free in orchards and fields, and pomegranate stains on my little white dress.

I am from the small, hand-built, silver trailer filled with love and laughter that traveled the highways of California in the 40s; from a stucco house with a tall cyprus tree and grape arbor on School Street in Stockton; from a boarding school with date palms lining the drive, a home farm where the food was grown and raised, and an infirmary where they gave dark beer to 7 year olds with anemia; from a house in the country with a cherry tree and a dog named Bows and a neighbor who raised fighting cocks outside of Stockton; from a tropical house surrounded by hibiscus hedges, with a maid's house and a banana tree in the back yard in Puerto Rico; from a new project house with a twig of a tree in the front yard and open fields and train tracks to explore outside of Denver; from a standard house-house almost next door to my best friend in El Paso; from a quiet house set back in a large lot with loquat trees and an overgrown yard for children and a dog named Heathcliff and a cat named Miss Pettibone to play in; from a new project house with the standard twiggy tree and a dog named Kal and a bedroom with my own built-by-my-Daddy desk large enough for my typewriter and sewing machine and still lots of room to do home work; from my Great-aunt Julia's peaceful, safe house with the wisteria arbor and the Meyer lemon and orange trees, where I could smell jasmine and hear the song of the resident mocking bird on summer nights and the cedar waxwings feasted on the pyrocantha bushes in the fall; from a variety of dorm rooms and apartments in Berkeley; from an apartment near the Haight Ashbury adorned by the graceful products of the Scots tile manufacturer who had built the house for his daughter in 1903; from small apartments in Berkeley that were graced by Richard and Julie and college texts; from a homestead in Alaska where washing the dishes in the winter involved shooting a hole in the ice and then lowering the bucket for water and once included looking at a moose who was looking in the kitchen window at me; from a log house with moose antlers above the door next to a church and half a block from the library in Fairbanks; from a house in Campbell with a fig tree in the back yard that attracted birds and a cat who loved to lay in the windows and do bird calls; from a few others, and now from a two story apartment on a hillside in Alaska, with bookcases in every room, high ceilings on the bottom story and low, cozy ones on the top, where I can see mountains and forest and eagles from my windows -- shared with two cats.

I am from the sequoia, reaching for the stars; the raven, raucous and sly. From back country roads named, by my great-grandfather Herndon, after members of my family, where my great-grandparents lived on the corner of Herndon and Joyce. From my grandfather's house at the corner of Herndon and Nadine with the mixed orchard that included every tree that we knew would grow in California at the time and a vegetable garden and melon patch I harvested with my basket for my meals. From the closet with the kaleidoscope and stereopticon viewer with slides and my Aunt Nadine's outgrown coloring books and crayons.

I am from sharing family stories and laughing easily at ourselves, from Virginia and Roland and Julia. From Hunts and Herndons and Uptons and Adamses. From slave holders and a Union soldier. From soldiers in most of the wars fought in this country since the French and Indian, including the brother of an ancestor who died at Bunker Hill.

From strong women -- two widows, a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law who raised their orphaned grandchild/great grandchild; one who refused to promise to obey when she got married in the 1890s; and another who ran away from home in the early 1900s and worked her way from the Atlantic coast to the Pacific to avoid being married to "a rich old man" her father had picked out.

I am from casual Christians with connections to Dunkards, Puritan ancestors, and free thinkers. A nominally protestant child who attended a Catholic boarding school for two years.

I am from bookworms and wanderers, who started in England and moved, step by step, generation by generation, westward to California and Alaska, by way of England, Massachusetts, Virginia, and roads west; watermelon that tasted like heaven grown from generations of seeds saved by my grandfather; and San Francisco sourdough French bread with salami and cheese picnics.

From Sarah Warren Osborne, who died waiting to be hung for witchcraft in Salem and the Putnams, who accused her; Etta Mace, who learned to read upside down by reading the Bible to her blind great-grandmother; Percy Herndon, who fought in World War I; my mother, who was a widow at 25 and who had newspaper covering the holes in the soles of her shoes when she remarried.

I am from a box of photos and several albums in my mother's closet filled with pictures of both identified and unidentified ancestors and relatives. From suddenly realizing that my sister looked like my grandmother's picture when grandma was 16. From looking at pictures of myself and my parents and seeing how loved I was.

I am also from my own generation -- an atheist with a sister who married a Palestinian from Kuwait and became Muslim and another sister who was once a B'hai missionary in Kotzebue, Alaska. A family that has, after an incredible number of generations of marrying only Colonial descendants from England, finally broken free and discovered diversity with a hey-nonny nonny! Which now includes a grand daughter whose other grands were originally from India, a great nephew who is black, a niece with a wife.


Marianne said...

This is beautiful! I'm going to make a pot of coffee and begin! Your life is so colorful, Jecelyn. I'm very curious to read my own. ;) Thank you for this. I'm having trouble finding the "read more" button. But, I've copied and pasted what I can find to a Word document and I'm going to begin. Thanks, Matianne

LauraHinNJ said...

Your are from so many diverse things!

I saw this on another blog awhile ago and meant to try it - will have to sit down with a pen and find my roots.

Thanks for sharing this - quite a read.

J said...

Hmmm...I don't know about the ancestor who worked her way west to avoid marriage! Loved your version. :)

Maya's Granny said...

J -- that was my grandmother Hunt.

kenju said...

Very interesting reading! I have been going to write a where I'm from ever since I first discovered them almost 2 years ago. Maybe I should just start......LOL

Joy Des Jardins said...

You are an amazing lady J...honest and intelligent, with a most warm and genuine humor...and, you share it with all of us. How lucky we are. Loved this post.