Friday, April 15, 2011

Where I'm From

I am from the little lady with the big baby. The little lady who carved us naked out of clay, she on her back, arms open, me sprawled fat and barely born across her belly.

I am from the man who was a boy with a foot so long they said he looked like an “L” with hands, I’ve discovered, mine will never grow into.

I’m from Jewish anarchists and Methodist peacekeepers, garden gnomes and Denmark, Boris and Margaret, Whilhelmina and Ray, the Pale- that stretch of land between Poland and Russia.

I’m from a little house with a big backyard in the noble heritage of the near West End in a corner of the world called Tuckahoe, a name I’ve heard means “Little Potato.”

I am from short and tall, late and early, passive aggressive and just aggressive, tongues that long to whip and to kiss. I am from a grated oil burning floor heater and metal ducts snaking forced heat through holes in the wall, couches found in alleys, lampshades made by hand, food stamps, thrift stores, love first rate, never used before.

I am from pastel and oil, acrylic and watercolor, pencil and ink, wood and ruler, hammer and nail, chisel, chainsaw, miter, drill, screw.

I am from Mr. Rogers and Bob Marley, Uncle Wiggly and The Rainbow Goblins, The Monkey King and Thumbelina.

I am from a marriage and a divorce, love and its opposite, the familiar clang of the world at its end and at its beginning, splitting apart and then reformed, broken and whole, the consistency of two people working out their distances across town and across a river and across a home and across a little girl.

I am from blooming fig trees and hacked down dogwoods, watermelon rinds, black licorice sticks, mugs of Folgers shot through with honey and hot milk.

I am from a house full of art and cats and paint and dishes piled in the sink, addiction treated and untreated, words in sentences, stories in books, love kept and love given in such abundance it takes all of me to remember.


  1. Valley, this post is just so moving, beautiful and brave like you.

  2. Stunning. May I repost it on my blog? I am working with some writers on Essays on Childhood with a focus on "place." This would show them a new way of defining "where we are from."

    Thanks for considering it!

  3. Valley, You have walked the tightrope to its end & created "art." That is to say you have made something Useless & Priceless. Keep on Writing. lj rey

  4. Elizabeth--- I would be honored for you to repost this on your site! This particular piece of writing comes from an exercise in a creative nonfiction class I'm teaching, the title borrowed from the poem, "Where I"m From" by George Ella Lyon. It does seem to open up some interesting doors. Thanks again! Valley

  5. Thank you so much! I will drop a comment here when it is up over at EOC.

  6. Wow, really great. Missed my writing prozac this week. Thanks for posting the exercise! I just may have to borrow it : )

  7. Hi, Valley -- Here is the link to the post. Thanks again, I think this will have a very positive and creative impact on the Essays on Childhood writers this year!

  8. Thank you everyone for your lovely comments! I'm still not sure about "commenting etiquette" but I guess "thank you" always works? And Elizabeth--- thanks so much for reposting this. I loved your blog-- what a fascinating concept to explore!

  9. Valley, I'm late seeing this but can't resist commenting. You amaze me every time. I want to be you when I grow up.