Where Are You From?


A few days ago, I came across a beautifully written article by blogger extraordinaire, Jenny Hansen, and I had to give it a try myself. Turns out, she discovered this nostalgic writing exercise after reading “Where I’m From” by Sharla Lovelace, which includes a template. Apparently, that template has been bouncing around the internet for a decade or more. Perhaps it’s so popular because you don’t have to be a professional writer to try it, not even close. The next time you’re trying to figure out what to give a parent (or your child) who already has everything, or doesn’t need another whatchamacallit, perhaps consider writing your story and gifting it to them. Just a thought.

With that said, here’s a little bit of me.

Where I’m From

I’m from wollastonite, Big Wheels, Tinker Toys, and a backyard sandbox. From a sunny kitchen where my mom lined up Velveeta and mustard sandwiches and Kool-Aid for us kids to grab before running outside to play some more.

I’m from a white clapboard house perched at the edge of a hay field, a second-story Holly Hobbie-themed bedroom with white, flowing curtains, and a paneled den large enough for a family of seven. From a kitchen with daily homemade meals, a fridge with a pitcher of unsweetened iced tea, and the occasional rhubarb pie.

I am from evergreens, Lady Slippers, pussy willows, and hummingbirds, oak trees, pink clover, and dairy cows. From a mining town with a K-12 central school and graduating class of forty, one grocery store, one blinking light, and a river that we’d skate come winter.

I’m from Sunday summer picnics with grandma’s potato salad and grandpa’s sons–large, tobacco-chewing men grilling hot dogs and burgers. From a backyard where we played horseshoes, croquet, and H-O-R-S-E until it was too dark to do more than roast marshmellows around a cinder block fireplace.

Adirondack Evergreens

I’m from a no-nonsense, hardworking father and graceful, classy mother and too many aunts, uncles, and cousins to count. I am from the frugal and independent, the pinocle players, the shift workers, and the practical jokers. From “If you make a mess, clean it up” and “You can be anything you want to be if you work hard enough.”

I’m from a Catholic home, from where we love others as God has loved us, turn the other cheek, and believe the meek shall inherit the earth.

I’m from where the Adirondack foothills meet the crystal blue waters of Lake Champlain, a home with veggies grown in the backyard and canned in the kitchen, laundry drying in the breeze, and Sunday breakfasts of fried eggs and bacon.

I am from shelves of photo albums next to the stairs, to be pulled out and pored over whenever we visit my childhood home. From boxes of art and school work in the attic, to skis and boots in the cellar. Never touched, but there just the same.

A Few More Thoughts

This exercise stirs up a myriad of memories as you write. I’ve worked on this piece for a few days, but I continue to remember more–and I want to include it all. Next weekend my family will travel upstate to my childhood home, and I imagine that will inspire me further. Writing, like life, is very often a work in progress.

My mind is on my mother this week, even more than usual. She would have been seventy-five this year. I love and miss you, Mom, but here’s a little gift to you, to let you know I meant it when I said I’d love you for always.

And to my readers, here’s your gift. My husband made up this little summer concoction early in the season and I adore it. As Nicole Basaraba  pointed out to me recently, every cocktail needs a good name. Let me know if you like it! Here it is…

Pink Flamingo Cocktail

Fill a 15 oz. cocktail glass with ice, pour in a shot-and-a-half of your favorite Scotch (I prefer single malt), add pink lemonade, stir, and top with a lemon. Enjoy!

Where are you from? Did this exercise stir any memories for you? What summer drink did you savor?

22 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Patricia Yager Delagrange
    Aug 27, 2012 @ 18:36:08

    I love reading this particular exercise to let people know who you are. Do you have the template for it?
    Thanks.
    Patti

    • Jolyse Barnett
      Aug 27, 2012 @ 19:37:01

      Hi Patti! Click on the link for Sharla Lovelace. Scroll to the bottom of her article; she included a template there. I’d love to see your “Where I’m From” story, too! :)

  2. alicamckennajohnson
    Aug 27, 2012 @ 19:25:01

    What a fun exercise- I might steal it :)

  3. Cheryl
    Aug 27, 2012 @ 19:58:04

    Made me cry, especially on the 27th!!!

  4. Darlene Steelman
    Aug 27, 2012 @ 20:04:04

    I love your “Where I’m From” Jolyse.. :) I had a lot of fun with this exercise.. Jenny is awesome!

  5. Lynda B.
    Aug 27, 2012 @ 21:03:42

    Very fitting and also a few tears were shed … Happy Birthday Mom!

  6. Nicole Basaraba
    Aug 27, 2012 @ 21:06:38

    I’m from a similar place with trees, pussy willows, hummingbirds, breakfasts of fried eggs and bacon. Excellent post! And I LOVE the name for the drink. Makes me want to try it even more. now

    • Jolyse Barnett
      Aug 28, 2012 @ 17:31:15

      See, I knew we were sisters. LOL My husband named the drink, too. The photo makes it look more salmon than pink, but it sure does hit the spot no matter what the color. I’d love to hear what you think after you try it. :)

  7. Jenny Hansen
    Aug 28, 2012 @ 01:21:26

    Jolyse, I LOVE IT! I could see your childhood and your deep joy in those memories. And I could see the sadness you feel that your mom has missed those golden years.

    I’m glad you continue your “Where I’m From” journey – wondrous memories arose for me with this exercise.

    That being said, I purposely stopped mine in the time when my mother stood tall and strong in my life. She’d have been 74 next month and it will be the 8th birthday that’s she’s missed. I’m not in a mental place to be able to probe even the edges of that wound so I left it alone and embraced the joy.

    Sending you a virtual hug as you journey to the “land of your childhood.” :-)

    • Jolyse Barnett
      Aug 28, 2012 @ 17:35:00

      Thanks for writing your story, so that I could be so inspired. I’m sorry for the loss of your mom, and thanks for the hug. I can feel it across cyberspace. :)

  8. Marcia
    Aug 28, 2012 @ 09:38:21

    I love knowing more about you Jolyse, and you used beautiful, evocative language! I’ll have to try this! Awesome sounding cocktail, too!

  9. Donna Coe-Velleman
    Aug 29, 2012 @ 00:07:53

    What you wrote is so touching and felt so real. Beautiful sentiments conjured wonderful visuals and emotions. Thank you.

    • Jolyse Barnett
      Aug 29, 2012 @ 10:06:50

      Thanks for stopping by, Donna, and for your kind words. I’d like to take credit for the imagery but the template focused me on showing, not telling. Try it. I’d love to see your story, too.

  10. Julie Glover
    Aug 29, 2012 @ 10:17:08

    I loved it, Jolyse! My mom is from Ohio, and she has talked about rhubarb pie too. I could totally picture the Holly Hobbie room. I remember those days! Wonderful, wonderful stuff.

  11. Gwen Hernandez
    Aug 29, 2012 @ 10:18:01

    I love this! I’m going to have to give it a try. Thanks for sharing yours.

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