“Where Are You From?”

It used to be easier answering this question, I’d say, “Here” or “I just moved from New York” (or wherever the last state was previously). But my addresses changed often recently. Today, in a little shop in Nottingham, the clerk asked me a simple question when hearing my American accent. “Do you mind me asking, where are you from?” I opened my mouth to answer, but didn’t know what to say.

Now I do.

Where Are You From?

A simple question
with a twisted answer.
I’m from everywhere.
And nowhere.
Bookending my life:
A little village in England
and a vibrant city in New England

The forward is short, like me
A few years under a flag,
not my parents’ –
not the one I’d pledge
allegiance to in primary school.

The chapters of my life are marked
by stories set in varied lands.
Sitting on wooden steps of a trailer,
heat rising in the distance,
blowing out a few candles on a cake,
baked by my mother.
My father, comforting me with lengthy explanations
of lighting and thunder.

As you thumb through the pages,
you'll see the usurpers, two characters who
claimed laps and arms, who forged a bond
only broken by miles and adulthood.
I thought of them as twins – “the boys”
They etched my story with their laughter,
binding themselves tightly into the stories
I share with my students.

One lost year without my father:
A short chapter told in letters, tape recordings,
blurred photographs from a war far away
Held together by the glue of extended family
Kept from fading by the protective cover of cousins,
this is the home of my heart

Swept away to the plains, flat and endless
Middle grade years transitions trees to a first crush,
then skipped ahead to tall peaks,
my rising action, but not my denoument
Punctuated by short setting changes,
growing, learning, finding my calling

Closer to the end,
change increases its pace.
In four years, five moves,
skipping across the land,
even across the pond,
like a shiny, smooth stone
a mere footnote in a lifetime 

I stand in the shoppe,
her eyes inquisitive, awaiting
my reply.
“Where am I from?” I repeat. 
I blink.
“That’s hard to say.
Everywhere.
And nowhere.
But for right now, I’m here.”


~Marjorie Light
August 27, 2016

 

ngham map

2 thoughts on ““Where Are You From?”

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