Here's my poem.
I am from the small, frame house on Meade St. with its huge metal drums of sweet-smelling flour and sugar in the basement, which we fetched in plastic storage tubs for my mother to use. From my father’s vegetable garden of corn, carrots and tomatoes, which I hated to weed.
I am from the lilac bushes in the back yard and the peonies in the front. From wild chokecherries made into jelly and wild raspberries on cereal when we were camping. From Ponderosa Pines and Black Hills spruces.
I am from a bowl of ice cream every night before bed and from dour myopia. From Aunt Sis, Aunt Babe, Aunt Toots and Uncle Bud, whose real names I can recall only with an effort. From the Ogdens, loyal to England and the King, the Johnsons from Sweden, the Kennedys and the Kains from Ireland. From the Prussians and other Germans we did not talk about. From the faint traces of Dutch and Scottish ancestry.
I am from the long-living and the land-tillers.
I am from always expecting the worst and not believing in one’s self.
I am from my parent’s compromise on the Episcopal Church and a higher power, as I came to understand God.
I am from the Great Plains and the Black Hills of South Dakota and the Sand Hills of Nebraska. From stalks of grains standing tall and burrowing root vegetables. From granite spires and lakeside campgrounds.
I am from a whimsical, jokester of a grandfather that I never knew. From a kindly grandmother who I only saw lose her temper once, at the burial of her abused daughter. From another pair of grandparents, quiet and stoic, hardened by the Protestant ethic and a living that did not come easy. From a father quick to anger and just as quick to laugh, with a special gift for making friends. From a well-organized and matter-of-fact mother who expressed her love through the daily baking of pies and cakes and cookies, which we ate without ever understanding what they were meant to say.
I am from vacation and holiday slides kept in metal boxes and projected on a folding screen for visiting friends and relatives. From my grandmother’s cast iron skillet that I still use. From the wooden lamp my grandfather made, beside me on a table as I write this. From the blue and green afghan my mother knitted for me, which still keeps me warm in the cold of winter. From the wooden folding table that was in our camping trailer.
I am from people, places and things that are only hundreds of miles away, yet there is no way back to there.
The picture is of my immediate family at my parents' 60th anniversary.