When I first had a baby who was soft and snuggly, who smelled good and was dressed the way I liked in Baby Gap dresses I snagged from the consignment store for a steal, I felt sad for the mommies of bigger kids. I watched them, mostly at church, and I thought they were just so… homely. With horror show teeth growing on top of each other, forgetting to let the little ones fall out before the big ones came in. And mismatched clothes with tears in all the wrong places; a pocket attached but barely, a toe sticking out of a sock without a shoe. They were gangly and awkward and socially cringe-worthy. They smelled wonky and had funny hair. And, I suppose, I remembered myself at that age and felt retroactively embarrassed for myself. So I felt sorry for their mamas, and I suspected they longed for their kids to be little again, still sweet and small; still pretty; still perfect and unmarred by time and teeth.
Now I’m the mama of the gangly ones with the funny hair and wicked grins, and I still think they’re homely, only now I find them delightfully so, and I revel in the secret of the mamas of the bigs — the secret that these goofy kids are also pretty and perfect and unmarred. Both/And, friends, and becoming more Both/And every day. Both homely and stunning. Both wonky and wonderful. Both grimy and gorgeous. Both magic and mess. Like all of us, it turns out, made up of a mix and jumble. Human and divine. And I adore that they are mine.
Cai came home from school last week and declared he hates writing the Most of ALL. He’s in 4th grade and he hates writing. He hates drawing. He hates art. And he really, really, extra hates poetry. Poetry is horrible. And then he pulled a poem from his backpack and threw it on the kitchen table, on top of Something Sticky from days ago, and on top of bills and groceries and someone’s sock, and he left the room to play XBox with his brother while I read his poem and laughed because it starts silly… and then wept because there it was, all written out, who my kid is at this wonky, beautiful age, and where he’s really from, in truth.
Where I’m From
by Cai Woolsey
I am from computer.
From Twix candy bars and XBox.
I am from chaos.
I am from madness.
I am from the willow that weeps
And the pear that is sweet.
I am from eating snow
And joyfulness from Beth and Greg.
I’m from loudness
And ruff housing.
I’m from kindness
I’m from my Papa’s Marines
And from cheese and steak.
I’m from the hospital.
I am from my home.
I asked Cai’s teacher about the poetry unit they’ve been doing. The awful, horrible poetry unit he hates which produced this picture of who my kid is, at age 10, and his wisdom and awkward, awesome grace. She shared the template with me, based on Where I’m From by George Ella Lyon, and I decided to write my own, as well.
It made me nervous, to be honest, because, as is common for Third Culture Kids, I never quite know how to answer Where I’m From. Do I say where I was born? Where I was raised? Where I live now? Where my heart, which ebbs and flows like the ocean, from one coast to another, pulled by mysterious forces, is drawn? It’s… complicated… for kids like me. We tend to know Who We Are rather than Where We’re From, but nobody ever asks Who Are You? when you meet for the first time.
Still, I thought. Still, I’d like to try so I might see. You know? And I’m sure you’ll forgive me if I steal some lines from my son.
Where I’m From
I am from the wilderness.
I am from chaos.
From magic and mess.
From grace and grime.
From wonder in the wild of a life lived off course
from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
I am from the water;
the ocean which is dark and light
and full of life and danger.
I am from hot toddies made by fierce and friendly women.
From ancient Irish enemies — Kerr and McDonough —
and their Scottish Murray foes,
turned friends, then lovers, then strangers, then friends again.
I am from dramatic sighs
and doing things a better way
and blowing up
and quieting down
and trying and succeeding
and trying and failing
to love each other well.
I’m from Stop Baiting Your Brother, Beth
Someday You’ll Be Best Friends,
and she was right; we are.
^^^I’m from telling my kids the same thing.^^^
From Brainwashing for a Better Tomorrow.
I am from Love made real who walks among us.
From Love which still turns the whole world upside down.
I’m from the Celts and the Gaels
and the Viking pirates who sailed the sea.
I am from the Wild, Wild West
and an Asian jungle,
and so I’m made of rice and whiskey
and things that taste free.
I’m posting the template below, because I’d really love to see yours, too. Feel free to use it loosely, as I did, ’cause you know who needs more rules? NOT ME. 😉 :*
Sending love, wild friends,
Where I’m From Template:
I am from _______ (specific ordinary item), from _______ (product name) and _______.
I am from the _______ (home description… adjective, adjective, sensory detail).
I am from the _______ (plant, flower, natural item), the _______ (plant, flower, natural detail)
I am from _______ (family tradition) and _______ (family trait), from _______ (name of family member) and _______ (another family name) and _______ (family name).
I am from the _______ (description of family tendency) and _______ (another one).
From _______ (something you were told as a child) and _______ (another).
I am from (representation of religion, or lack of it). Further description.
I’m from _______ (place of birth and family ancestry), _______ (two food items representing your family).
From the _______ (specific family story about a specific person and detail), the _______ (another detail, and the _______ (another detail about another family member).
I am from _______ (location of family pictures, mementos, archives and several more lines indicating their worth).