My kids are out of school for the summer but they still have English homework. Both of them have three books to read and a handful of assignments to complete over the summer – not for extra credit, mind you – just so they won’t be behind the curve when school begins again in the fall.

In my world summer meant weeks spent at the beach being pounded by waves and bronzed by the sun. It meant sunscreen in my eyes and feet smooth from the constant pumicing of the sand. My kids’ summers mean weeks spent honing sports skills and musical ability. It means sweat in their eyes and music lessons and feet pounding out the rhythm of a marching band cadence because high school football games start before classes do.

My only interaction with school during the summer was an Arts & Crafts class or a playground class called Recreation. Summers for my children mean community service and volunteer projects, Booster meetings and working at concession stands because preparing for college is just as much about competing against their peers as it is academics. It is in times like these when I see the great gap between my children and myself in the way we grew/are growing up and the way in which we perceive the world.

One of my daughter’s assignments was to choose a character in one of the books she read and write a poem modeled after George Ella Lyon’s well-known poem Where I’m From. Since I am not a lover – or even a liker – of poetry I was initially lackluster about this assignment. But when my daughter read her completed poem to me I was fascinated. I learned that this poem is about the process of belonging. It is about understanding who a person is by identifying the experiences that make a person who they are. It is about seeing that person’s place in the world from the events that shape their life. I could envision the scenes that my daughter described and was amazed that something so simplistic could reveal so much about the writer.

She encouraged me to try my own hand at her assignment by using George Ella Lyon’s model to write about myself. Here is the result:

I am from Pacific sun and sand.

I am from digging for crabs in the bubbling surf

And from holding my nose at the smell of seafood on Fisherman’s Wharf.

I am from playing outside all summer; platinum hair, bronzed skin.

I am from riding bikes and roller skates with metal wheels

From hopscotch and hula hoops.

I am from hunting hated snails in my mother’s garden

And from picking apricots and avocadoes in my own backyard.

 

I am from family dinners with conversation.

I am from hearing my father whistle long, sweet tunes

And from listening to my mother practice hymns on the organ.

I am from eat-your-vegetables and don’t-talk-back and church every Sunday.

I am from prayer-changes-things and youth camp

And God sees even when Mom doesn’t.

I am from realizing that no matter what anyone thinks

True character is who you are when no one is looking.

 

I am from leaving my roots to follow my husband’s dreams

Where friends became my new family.

I am from walking next door in bare feet on grass still wet with dew

To share coffee with another wife whose husband was travelling – again.

I am from music – lots of music – and books and putting thoughts down on paper.

I am from scrapbooks filled with scrawls and smeared ink and tear stains.

I am from journals where memories jump off the page

And penned aspirations are not yet realized.

 

For more information about George Ella Lyon or her poem, go to http://www.georgeellalyon.com/where.html