Where I’m From

I am from sandy toes and lemonade stands,
Speedboat rides, jet skis, and fishing off of our dock, using cut up hot dogs for bait.
From make-believe and swing sets, party dresses and dance lessons,
From Disney movies and bunk beds, glow in the dark stars and neighborhood swim teams,
I am from walking to kindergarten with my older sister, skipping cracks in the sidewalk and holding hands to cross the street.
 
I am from growing from the baby to the middle child,
Moving from the sunny shore to the frozen Midwest,
From learning how to stand on my own two feet, and learning who I can lean on (just in case).
I am from family reunions and dozens of cousins,
And learning it’s not the place that matters, but the people who fill it.
 
I am from stage lights and grease paint, auditions and resumes,
From learning lines and breaking in character shoes.
I am from reading and writing, but definitely not arithmetic,
From essays and test scores and college admissions.
I am from minivans and subdivisions, family vacations and Friday night football games,
And childhood friends that have lasted a lifetime.
 
I am from a family broken after 30 years, but only made stronger by our struggles.
I am from learning about loss and selfishness, about moral and mental decay.
I am from therapists and prescriptions, from tears and re-learning to trust.
I am from finding support in my family that will never crack.
I am from new beginnings and second chances, and third, and fourth.
I am from discovering that life will not always turn out as planned, and maybe that is a part of its beauty.
 

I think my Where I’m From poem more or less reinforces a master narrative of a normal suburban childhood. The mention of things like minivans, high school football, dance lessons, and Disney movies underscore a typical middle class suburban upbringing. There is also a focus on education, which lends itself to that narrative, as well. All of the stanzas except the last one reflect a happy childhood and a close-knit, large family. There is an involvement in community activities and institutions shown in the discussion of swim teams, schools, and subdivisions, but the community itself is vaguely defined and does not stand out as unique. I think that is accurate for the narrative of the suburbs; they are thought of a close and involved communities, but largely “cookie-cutter”  and indistinguishable.

In the final paragraph, I think there is some reinforcing of that same narrative but more-so the introduction of a new narrative of growing up in the suburbs. There is certainly a master narrative of unhappy divorced families with children in therapy and trust issues. The moments that my poem may refuse this narrative are in the unexpectedness of the ending as compared to the rest of the poem, as well as the very late-in-life divorce. The acceptance of life being imperfect and impossible to plan out is definitely not an idea associated with either suburban narrative.

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