I am from

I WON! The George Ella Lyons I Am From Writing contest. For instructions for writing your own George Ella Lyon poem, read here:

I am from formica counter tops, Sunrise Easter Services, brown cinnamon swirls made from leftover dough, and ice cream socials in the spring. I am from sunburns sprayed with Solarcaine, and homemade dresses from Spiegel patterns. I am from rubber drinking cups from the

grain elevator stamped with the Champaign Landmark logo, Pepsi from returnable glass bottles, and counters littered with coffee-stained recipe cards in handwriting that makes me homesick.

I am from the bungalow house on White Street in the village that is still dry, that sits in the valley that holds two castles in front of the Mac-O-Chee Creek, with cold, fast-moving water that smoothes the gold and brown pebbles in its bed.

I am from the Hickory trees where I played “house”, Shasta daises, hollyhocks, red fox squirrels and the weathered barn and chicken coop at my Grandmother’s. From the meadows filled with grasses, deer, wheat, soybean and cornfields. I am from, “the cows are out,” and the strawberry patch at Betty’s we picked from each June. From the valley that fills with hazy fog in summer mornings, and ice storms in winter. I am from the German Shepherd named Queenie that is still a source of comfort in my dreams. I am from the cherry tree I climbed and hid in as my Mother called my name.

I am from chanting I see Lakewood in car rides in Summer, and canning green beans, corn, and pears in the pressure cooker in August. I am from hard working farmers, and puzzle masters, and worriers from Millie, and hugs from Alfred, (who always had a too-rough beard but lots of love), and Joyce, and Helen’s white paper bag of peanut clusters, and Grandpa and Grandma Watkins.

I am from the card players on Saturday night, whose best and only friends were their 7 brothers, sisters — and their mates, and whose idea of comfort was listening to the corn grow and watching the bugs fly around the pole light. I am from the sound of clicking metal needles that made Afghans, doilies and baby blankets.

I am from “thunder is just God moving his furniture,” and “hold your feet up when the car goes over the bridge.” And the one I never understood, “I’ve got your nose,” and later, “whenever one door closes, God opens a window somewhere else.” And from Helen, “God never gives you more than you can handle.” I still wonder about that one.

I am from the fundamental, born-again Christian Church, and I thankfully later learned that everything is not black and white, and that there is gray and lots of love. I am from the farmers who believed that hard work gave them favor in God’s eyes. I am from the tea-stained handbook by Norman Vincent Peale, now out of print, that I think was Grandma Watkins’, as she met him; it now sits on my nightstand, and I read from it every night, mostly because I miss her.

I am from farmlands and woods, of gatherers from France, England and Germany who started as onion farmers in this new land. I am from the 1963 black Chevy that took me home from the Mary Rutan Hospital, the place I was born, the first and last place my Mother ever spoke to me. From Grandma’s homemade noodles, hunting and frying Morels, pitchers of iced-sun tea, “frog legs” that were really hamburgers, and hard-tack candy and popcorn popped on Sunday night after church.

I am from the car parked under the big maple tree on Saturdays, and washed with the garden hose, and 4th of July fireworks with the Wooten’s at the Airport, who told me the pretty red one was for me and the pretty blue one was for my brother and the next was for Mom, and the next for Dad.

From watching the men in my sleepy, dry town gawk at June who would walk up and down Main Street in her leopard mini skirt, high heels and boa feather scarf. From tying a string to a cornstalk so I could wander freely in the field without fearing I’d get lost, from sleeping alone with my Grandma and sensing her strength and calm when she heard the coyote howl outside the door.

I am from playing “hide the button” during power outages. From the Mom who took off and ran to heaven when I wasn’t looking, and whose flowers still bloom from the earth where she planted them.

I am from the Father whose twinkling blue eyes still make my heart jump. And from the time when I was 3, I was lost in the crowd of people in Church, and I spotted his hand, at eye level, and instantly knew it was his, and squeezed it tight. The same hand that I would, 40 years later, cover and splash with my tears, as it held mine during her funeral.

I am from the box of black and white photographs from my Grandmother’s ancestors that was left in my Mother’s house, which I had the courage to dutifully sort through on the first Christmas Eve without my Mom. The house that held the 3 family Bibles that date from 1856, that are barely staying together, and the quilts finished and unfinished. I am from the washcloths and rags and nightgowns I now keep in my house to sniff and remind me of the fresh air and open fields of my home. I am from the matriarchs who raised me from my knees, whom I thought would be here to help me through my journey as a Mother of my 4 boys, but are not.

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57 comments to “I am from”
  1. How sweet that your dog is still in your dreams…and sad about your mom running off to Heaven unexpectedly. My dad did the same thing…he died in an accident when I was 21…

    Thanks for sharing this.


  2. This is a big undertaking; thanks for having the courage and the beautiful words to make it real. Save it for your children and grandchildren, because it’s part of what they’re from, too. They’ll be able to add that they’re from a mother who could face up to all the paradoxes of being a parent and make something lovely out of it.

  3. Thanks for the inspiration, I did it too and as you predicted, I cried. It’s funny how the simple formula means you don’t explain anything, just dig deep into those memories and feel them so very intensely.

  4. This is utterly beautiful – and inspiring. My head is churning with ideas to write my own. I need to go off and mull over the possibilities for a bit.

    I can’t wait to read more here. You have a wonderful blog.

  5. Congratulations, Susie, I voted for you and I hope you win; but as you say it doesn’t matter because you’ve done a beautiful thing.

  6. Just wanted to let you know it brought tears to my eyes which is not good because I’m at work. And that was before I got to the part about your mum running off to heaven! So beautiful, thank you!

  7. Very moving and reflective! It made me take a moment and relish in my childhood memories. You provided such strong visuals with warm emotions!
    We wish you our best!

  8. Excellent. I’ll vote for you.

    I just wanna know how come I didn’t get to play. I didn’t know there was a contest or I would have joined you.

    Thanks for letting me know where to vote.

  9. Hi Suzie. Really enjoyed your article. It brought back a lot of good memories on our part, also. The picture helped, too. I think that was about the time Joy and I met your family, and we had some really good times together over the years. Especially the New Years Parties. Your Dad came down with Mono during one of those parties. You have our vote , Suzie and we wish you all the best. Bob

  10. I am in awe of this…it reads like music for my eyes…

    Doesn’t hurt that I’m exactly the same enriched, gorgeous, intelligent, wise, humble vintage!

    thanks for linking to my site…and if you ‘ve got time – the culinoscarpies are waiting for a writer like you…

  11. susie,

    Beautiful Susie. Your mom would be very proud of you but then she always was. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of her. I miss our talks. She was a great neighbor for 20 + years. You have my vote!

  12. Oh, I’m glad you won this! I didn’t vote, but when I came here to see the winner, I remembered this entry. It is so deserving! You and I have a few things in common, too. In some ways, I am from the same places you are from.

  13. Oh, Susie! My heart sang as I recalled the sights, sounds, smells and visuals of our growing-up community. I chuckled at your recounting of some of the same people I too vividly remember, especially the leopard skirt and suglasses. You caused me to pause and to remember and to be grateful. Thank you for your personal gift today. You have my vote.

    Joe Cookston
    Brookville, Ohio

  14. Your writing brings so many memories back to me of my childhood, and helps me picture what yours must have been. When I read your prose, I feel as if it is summer, with a blue sky and just enough heat to make a wonderful June day. Your boys will need to keep this in their memory books. They’re lucky to have such a wonderful writer for a mom!

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  16. Congratulations! Your won! Great new changes on your blog. All your hard work & long hours on the computer has really paid off. Exceptional coverage on so many different topics & beautifully written. If there was a blog contest, you would win!

  17. I really enjoyed that. Didn’t realize you were from 63, me too. I wrote one too, but never posted it, maybe someday I will….

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  21. Hi Susie!

    Great article! I loved all the beautiful imagery. Your writing is like a breath of fresh air. You have my vote and GOOD LUCK!

  22. I voted for you, of course! We support our blogging friends and especially winners with writing talent. We are telling all our Tribeca friends to vote for you too. Right now we are slogging through the snow and sleet and Nanny Tina has gone deep into the Internet to try and save Matt Drudge from himself. Until he is recovered, Nanny Tina won’t be available to cast her vote. Keep us posted and Good Luck!
    Cordially in Cashmere,
    Nanny Molly
    Co-CEO NannyWorld International
    New York

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  26. ohhh Susie!
    I am adding your site to my favs! Came across it while searching for “best yoga DVDs” and boy am I glad. U wake up and think u will just be searching for yoga dvds, then you’re crying reading some chick’s blog. Where am I from??? I am from the land of early ambivalence to consequence as I skillfully write my full name in the freshly poured concrete outside my elementary school. 🙂 Thank u for the gift of this site today.

  27. This is amazing…so incredibly touching, I was in tears. It is a priceless treasure for your children and future generations in your family. What an incredible gift you have!

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