I grew up in a white farm house at the end of a long(ish) driveway just down the hill from our church. We could see the purple light-up cross from our windows at night. In that house we learned that we were good. We were loved.
It’s funny how we forget that.
This week I went to the grocery store to get cream cheese for our Super Bowl party shrimp dip. I came out of the store with Pull-ups training pants that get cold when the kid pees (I’m trying anything at this point), a variegated scan of yarn to try (and I stress try) to knit something out of, and a pack of valentines for my daughter (which I later realized doesn’t have enough for her whole class).
And yep, you guessed it, no cream cheese.
I put it on the conveyor-belt thingy. I can picture it in my mind. It was red. The package font was curly white, I tell you! But somewhere between that belt and my home, it was not in the bag. And even though it wasn’t a big deal, and even though we could borrow some, I still felt like an idiot.
“How could you forget something so simple?” the voice in my head says. This voice has not been all that kind to me historically.
I used to let it get me down, believing its bullying wholeheartedly. It’s only recently where God’s got me learning that wholeheartedness is this whole other thing. Growing up in that white two-story farm house, my parents didn’t teach me to believe fear like that.
In my writing space at home I have pictures and cards hung up to remind me of love when the fear gets loud, to remind who I am and where I’m from. One is a 35-mm shot of my childhood home, another is a silly “Rockstar for Jesus” pic where I’m serving sno-cones as a camp counselor with a Sharpie-drawn tattoo, another is a Wonder Woman card a dear friend gave me at a time when I needed someone to believe in me.
We need reminders. We need nudges back to the Goodness when the bullies get loud.
As a part of the Nebraska Writing Project, I was introduced to a writing exercise that is pure magic, a nudge that I’ve seen work for everyone who tries it.
Writing an “I Am From” poem made me cry the first time I did it, and it still resonates the two other times I’ve done it since. The exercise is based on a George Ella Lyon poem titled “Where I’m From.” It takes the original poem and puts in blanks for you to insert your own story. So, if you’ve always wanted to write poetry, but didn’t think you had the chops, here’s an easy start.
In true teacher form, I have a handout, so click here to print off or use this page. The directions are straightforward and there are two examples.
One more thing, after you’ve written, don’t judge the writing or apologize for it, just say thanks for the Goodness that shines through. Maybe that’s a good stance for more than just this poem. What if, instead of apologizing or critiquing, you shared it with someone and it warmed their heart? Hearing these from others is part of the magic.
That said, I’d love to hear it if you write one. May we all remember where we’re from, sitting back comfortable in our own skin, at home again in that two-story white farmhouse, home in the Love that’s been holding us since the beginning, may we remember and help each other when we forget.
I am From by Evi Wusk (2017)
I am from notebooks and library bags, filled.
From Noxema and “Our Family” store brand everything.
I am from the white two-story farmhouse down the hill on Rohrs Road.
I am from Bleeding Hearts blooming and Daylillies in the ditch.
From Birthday Cake on Christmas and “Do what you say you’re gonna do.”
I am from Elmer and Pearl, from Herbert and Nancy
From quiet Midwest farmers who smile loud and New England nature lovers who ate brown bread and beans every week.
From, “Go run around the house,” and “I’ll pay you a quarter if you can be quiet for 10 minutes.”
I am from potluck Lutherans, and week-long Bible school with root beer floats and water balloon clothes sopping wet.
I am from Auburn, Nebraska, from Germany, England, Ireland, Scotland and Holland. From crunch cones in the summer, corn chowder in the winter, and tuna salad all days in between with a bowl of pickles on the side.
From that time my quiet Grandma put one hole and then another in the kitchen linoleum, as that garden snake shirked her garden hoe swings, as my child eyes grew big as saucers.
From sitting around the table at noon, our family and our hired hand, a big meal at dinner and then again at supper, all passing bowls, sitting, talking, and saying grace.
From the Steffens farm quarry. From St. Paul’s (Hickory Grove) Church. From a Bible on the table, corners worn in the white two-story farmhouse down the hill on Rohrs Road.