A few different people this week have said to me, “Oh you write?! I’d love to write! Wish I could write…” So here’s the money-where-your-mouth-is-moment. This is an assignment I have taught for my entire teaching career because I first completed one in undergrad and loved it. It’s called an “I Am From” or an “I Am” poem. After my own latest version, you will find the assignment and a helpful exercise should you wish to try it yourself. It’s totally accessible, very therapeutic, nostalgic, and can be a good tribute to what makes you unique.
“I Am From” by Amandy 2018
I am from an East Baltimore rowhouse, in the shadow and shouting distance of the old Memorial Stadium,
From the shores of the Baltimore Water Filtration Plant, from the ripples of Lake Montebello.
I’m from the metal awning rack above our front porch that only ever held Christmas lights, from Dad’s front yard farm and knee high by the fourth of July,
From knowing how to swing the back gate just right so it would hit the curb and close on its own. CLINK
I am from the field across the street where our fish Chuckie’s bones have long turned to dust,
From made up games and playing catch, from feeling like really, we had the biggest back yard because this was our field.
I’m from that mockingbird that used to peck at Nike, from seeing that Nike really was an animal–even if we thought he was human–who knew how to handle himself in his own kingdom.
I’m from Mom’s shiny, yellow Baer School jacket and Dad’s omnipresent vest, from tiny Aubrey’s giggle that collided her chin with her neck,
From the costume box in the basement that runeth over with possibilities, from playing Sonny and Cher, Bill Clinton and Deborah Weiner, from wigs and graduation robes and forgotten high heels.
From Duffy’s perpetual trail of drool, from wondering where the tennis ball had gone because his lips were saggy enough to hide it.
I’m from the time that guy asked us to show him where the shopping center was, from telling him “no thanks,” and then being clueless of the gravity of what we’d just done.
I’m from mud pies in the alley and being the client when we played hair, from Skip It, and the prrrrrrrrrr of our rollerblades, and I’m from the glass in my knee when I fell out back.
I’m from MLK Days of Service and feeding ducks in the harbor with stale bread,
From living a life of hometown tourism because Nancy is my mom.
I am from riding bikes to downtown festivals, three helmet heads, one Dad,
From taking the #3 to the Fourth of July, or watching fireworks from our front porch out over the trees at the VA and a straight shot to downtown.
I’m from day trips in Mom’s hatchback Honda, from the seatbelt in the front passenger seat that worked on its own.
I am from that time I spilled hot pink nail polish on the carpet in my room and no one seemed to really care, especially me,
And that stain adorned my floor for years, symbolic of what it’s like to be raised a Doran.
I am from pineapple ham on the stove, raisins and brown sugar and love,
From Dad’s mishmash culinary inventions, from the time Aubrey told him she’d had enough of the curry, from one Michelob Ultra on a Sunday night.
I’m from pork chops and brussels sprouts with rice for Mom, from Entenmann’s cheese Danish, every Sunday reminding each other “at the end of the aisle!”
I come from 60 Minutes reporters crooning in the background from faraway places, from that tick, tick, tick, tick,
From those random moments when we don’t even agree to quiet down and listen to Morley Safer or Steve Kroft or Ed Bradley and when we stop eating to really listen to Andy Rooney–the latest revelation from the life of a small, observant, old man with eyebrows that told their own story.
I come from “Have a great week,” and “Where’s Krames?” in pet voice, then finding that black blob in the dark, two glowing orbs popping out from his little head,
From watching his belly swing side to side as my car approaches and he retreats back to who knows where.
I am from Gram’s old back porch steps, from the smell of craggy concrete in the hottest July has to offer,
I’m from Tide wafting from her laundry shamelessly waving on the clothesline, underpants and all.
From Old Maid and baking cookies and washcloth only baths, from that stiff guest bed and from the horror of catching my own eyes in the closet mirror in the middle of the night.
I am from full-on bosom hugs, from split pea soup with ham delivered in Chinese takeout containers, and her shell spoon rest she’d gotten from Grandmom Josephine.
I am from 91.5 FM filling her dining room, pencils without erasers, and candy in little dishes, from her basement “grocery store”
From our amazement at someone who had backups of everything because “Mars was having a sale.”
I’m from her folded plastic bags, because she cared for every single thing to that level.
From the delicate giraffe figurine Aubrey or I broke as young kids. She kept the pieces in a small porcelain dish in the good living room for the rest of her life.
I’m from abandoning my best hiding spots because Hide-n-Seek made me so nervous I had to pee,
From that roll out bed and the old exercise bike no one used, from the piano I always wanted to play and from the dusty photos it held–really its only job.
I come from that full freezer and several options for ice cream, from the smell of white toast reaching brown as she assembled the perfect sandwich she insisted on making for me.
I am from Dad’s classic rock tapes and family belting on the Pennsylvania Turnpike,
From stops at the same Flying J and wondering how he even knew how to find it in the anonymity of the road.
I’m from Grandpa Doran saying “THE FLYING J” like a 1950s radio host
I come from “It was raining hard in ‘Frisco” and answering all of the “na’s” the Beatles can throw at you at the end of “Hey Jude.”
From hearing the story of how Dad once had to take cover in the walk-in freezer in that mini-mart during a bad storm.
I come from car snacks and reading in the backseat, from long naps and eventually, early morning driving shifts, from tracking mile markers and getting lost in the dotted lines while staying found on the road.
I am from dawn fishing with Uncle John and Dad, from a time when I didn’t need a nap because being awake was just so thrilling,
From tubing and knee boarding and bathing in the lake as a team of cousins to save water in the house because there were just so many of us, from 32 ounce jugs of Kroger brand soap.
I come from mosquito bites and seaweed fear, from goose poop and massive quantities of food for dinner, enough to serve us all plus leftovers.
I’m from Boggle and Bananagrams, every match more epic than the last, from Costco-sized bags of peanut M&Ms and Labatt Blue because that’s how far north we are.
I am from the 45th Parallel, from the smell of gasoline mixed with lake, from the glittery peace of the water before 8 in the morning, from knowing Michigan is way underrated.
I am from photos in matching outfits, from posing in the store window to scare Black Friday shoppers,
I am from a home movie called “No Parking. Tow Away Zone.”
I am from pancake photos and scopes, from sandcrab genocide, and Ocean City afternoon million degree runs.
I’m from Old Bay stinging my hangnails, from crab claws and Natty Boh as a side dish,
From flush and gush in the ocean and using the water to cool a sunburn.
I’m from chick lit and a nap then chick lit then another nap,
From the sand in the layers of my library book, bumpy plastic, and evidence that I was here.
I am from utter relaxation that only comes from a familiar vacation spot. From pretzels and salt water. From a cold can of Coca Cola on the beach.
Now, I am from the children who grow in so many ways, from their offhanded comments that cut so deep or absolutely uplift.
I am from “walkity walk walk walk,” and “ACTUALLY WALK!” I am from doin’ too much and being “in everything.”
I’m from their rambling stories, from their logic that makes more sense than I ever expect,
From the Crochet Club’s energy at the tail end of Wednesdays.
I’m from their strength, the things they’ve been through and how they rise and how you’d never know.
I come from children from whom I’ve learned to draw life instead of letting them drain my own.
Now, I’m from replaying friends’ baby videos, from sharing the deepest things with my adopted sisters.
I am from hugs with squeezes and rocks back and forth, from seeing 39 group texts and knowing no one died–it’s just a story about a boy or a drama or a rally behind one of us who is sad.
From my women as a web of support, from laughter through tears and tears from laughter.
From Book Blub, wine, and real talk, from sitting in a circle of sisterhood, from the pages that unite us being an afterthought almost because US is more.
Now, I’m from 807, yellow behind our holly tree, from recycling on the front porch, like we’re junky but we care about the environment.
I’m from our couch spots and our dining room places, from our unspoken symbiotic style.
I am from that beer can that hit him in the head on the infield, from our first conversation that’s been flowing for a decade,
From the arguments when we were to young to know exactly what we had found, from Chas singing “If This is It” and me silently wondering if it was, it.
I’m from his pacing and the way he prepares rainbow trout with coriander seeds,
From marveling at what horror he befalls on a toothpaste tube when he can plate a meal like a five star chef.
I am from coming home to you, from Saturday morning coffee runs and John Oliver from last Sunday on the couch.
From wiggling to find the right sleeping spots on the airplane, as we fly over some ocean,
From watching you sleep on my shoulder feeling intense jealousy but also intense love.
I’m from waking up in foreign cities and knowing the he has a plan, today will be a great day, and that first we get the coffee then we do the things.
That’s where I’m from.