Where I’m From
by Ann Kroeker
I am from the persimmon tree, ripe fruit dropping, splitting, squishing soft into the grassy lawn below. I am from sweet-spring lilac and lily-of-the-valley. I am from clover and crown vetch, hollyhocks and honeysuckle, peonies and pansies.
I am from soybean and corn fields, hay and straw, and Black Angus cattle grazing in the pond field.
Our 30 acres held barn swallows, snapping turtles, red-winged blackbirds, and the lanky black-and-yellow garden spider poised in the center of a stringy orb made of dewy threads stretching from the flaking boards of the tool shed to the old red gas tank used to fuel the 8N tractor.
I am from Dick and Lynn, editors who carried home the scent of newsprint and ink in their hair and clothes. Their book collection lined the walls of every room in the house, and I am from those classics, mysteries, westerns, and biographies. I am from my brother’s comic book and insect collections, “The Maple Leaf Rag” he played on the chipped keys of our family piano, and his Beatles albums that spun on the stereo console.
Barbies and Breyer Horses, Operation and Life, Pong and Pacman; “Scooby-Doo,” “Gilligan’s Island” and “The Brady Bunch”; I am from board games and early electronics, cartoons and sitcoms. I am from white diaries snapped shut with a metal lock and key; and I am from the library, curled in a corner with Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys.
About a mile from home sits the tiny brick church with tall windows opened on hot summer Sundays to let the breeze blow across Mr. Bowman’s farm field and onto our sweat-glistened faces and necks. I stood among neighboring farmers holding worn hymnals, singing “In the Garden” and “Trust and Obey.” I am from those dark wooden pews and the coins and bills jangling in the offering plate. I am from the two-digit numbers slid into the display board listing the previous week’s attendance.
Squeezed between my dad and brother on the bench seat of the old red GMC truck, straddling the stick shift mounted to the floor board, I rode to the Belleville diner for giant tenderloin sandwiches, all-you-can-eat catfish, or Beef Manhattan topped with mashed potatoes and gravy. Dad would sing sometimes, songs from his childhood, like “Indian Love Call,” imitating Jeanette MacDonald in a falsetto voice, and “Down by the Old Mill Stream,” encouraging us to join in the chorus.
I am from track meets, softball games, and the woodwind section of the high school band. I am from the bedroom with yellow-flowered wallpaper and two windows overlooking the lilacs where a mockingbird perched to serenade. I am from Dairy Queen Dilly Bars and Dr Pepper chilled in a glass bottle.
I am from simpler, slower times, riding barefoot down the tar and gravel country road to the creek on a banana seat blue Schwinn, wearing ponytails and secondhand T-shirts and shorts. I would wade into the creek and dig for clay to make coil pots that would dry in the sun. I would skip rocks and watch minnows the color of silt or moss slip past my ankles faster than I could catch them.
I am from long summer days. When the sun sank low, I would pedal home for fresh-sliced tomatoes straight from the garden, still sun-warm, served with crisp, sugar-sweet corn on the cob, slathered with butter and coated with salt.