Where I’m From
I am from weeknight family dinners, napkin on the lap, elbows off the table, and asking permission to be excused. I am from HÃ¤agen-Dazs coffee ice cream for dessert and Dad’s piano practice before primetime television when he, with the Chicago Tribune, and Mom, with her needlepoint, sat in the den together to watch a show, their hours together protected.
I am from the ranch house with the circle driveway by Ravinia Park that my grandparents built. I’m from the park’s summer music filling the Japanese garden in the backyard, Lake Michigan’s wind blowing the porch screens back and forth on stormy nights. I’m from my father’s and aunts’ childhood memories preceding mine and my sisters’ in every room.
I am from snowy walks to school, the smell of lilacs in the spring, and the mysterious ravines nearby where I played until my second round of poison oak. I am from the rumble of the Metra Train, from shaded walks on The Green Bay Trail leading to Glencoe or “uptown” Highland Park. I’m from knowing in my bones that The Lake is East and The City is South. I’m from the gorgeous drive up and down Sheridan Road, past Northwestern University and spilling into Lake Shore Drive.
I am from businesses like Grandpa Norman’s and my father’s fasteners, to Grandpa Chuck’s scrap metal, to Mom’s handwriting analysis and her store, Winnetka Stitchery. I’m from Grandma Susie’s and Grandma Pauline’s art, from their desire to express and create. I’m from world travelers, readers, theater goers, lovers of symphony, and rescuers of greyhounds.
I am from the tradition of summer camp, in my case eight years at Chippewa Ranch Camp for Girls in Eagle River, Wisconsin. I’m from color war (go tan!), loud songs after lunch, horseback riding, archery, sailing, water skiing, canoeing, and so many outdoor activities that neither my husband nor my kids could picture me doing now.
From “someone has to be the adult” and “Sackheims don’t quit.”
I am from a Judaism that was peripheral, but that ignited in me an almost inexplicable attachment and deep curiosity—what a rabbi and friend later called my pintele Yid, Yiddish for Jewish spark, a spark that is so alive for me now.
I am from the people of Highland Park and the places that haven’t changed. I’m from my parents’ closest friends, who are still like family, and from the kitchens and couches of all the Braeside Elementary School girls. I’m from the Edgewood Middle School girls who sometimes filled me with terror and other times awarded me a desperate dose of approval. I’m from the security and love of Jennifer, Dana, Lindsey, Emily, Taryn, Gwen, and Norah. I’m from cheese fries at Michael’s, Piero’s pizza, Carol’s Cookies, Once Upon a Bagel’s tuna salad, and Sunset Foods. I’m from the lost era of Gsell’s Pharmacy, Chestnut Court, Chandler’s, and The Style Shop.
From a name, Norman, my grandfather, who died in a plane crash before I was born. From Saturday night sleepovers with Grandma Pauline, who never remarried. From my mother’s memories in Rochester, New York where we spent many winter vacations sitting at Grandma Susie’s beautiful table and hearing Grandma Chuck’s clarinet all hours of the day and night.
I am from drawers full of photographs that one day my sisters and I will have to organize on our own.
I am from the peace of mind that I’m building a world of memories for my kids. I’m from the assurance that despite all the moments of imperfection and times I could have done better, that they will look back with a clear sense of atmosphere, family, and mostly of love. That they, like me, will remember the gift of home.
Where are you from?
Author’s Note: I discovered the “Where I’m From” template from fellow This is Childhood writer Galit Breen, whose beautiful version was recently published. After reading Galit’s piece, my mind was filled with images of the people and places that made up my childhood in Highland Park, Illinois, where my parents still live in the same house where I was raised. I immediately wanted to complete the exercise myself, which I hope, like Galit’s, makes you think of your own family as well as the friends, places, foods, and passing moments that made up your earliest years.
The original template based on George Ella Lyon’s poem “Where I’m From” can be found here.