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Where I’m From: Homage to George Ella Lyon

When I was teaching, I always made sure that I completed every writing assignment I ever gave my students. I would also share each piece with them when the time was right. This entry is my version of a very generative poem, written by George Ella Lyon, and used by thousands of English teachers around the country, to help students value what they know, what they bring with them and where they’re from. The lesson was popularized in Reading, Writing and Risin’ Up published by Rethinking Schools…

Where I’m From
Marsha Rosenzweig Pincus

I’m from secret recipes and bubbe meinses
Shared in ancient kitchens
While Fegele and Rivkah, Razel and Malka
Knead flour and eggs into
Kreplach and kanadalach
And watch them boil over in the iron pot
And rise up in wafts of steam
Like their girlhood dreams.

I’m from knit one purl two and
Metal needles ticking out a rhythm
Like a heartbeat as the women weave
Baby weight, four ply worsted or bulky novelty yarn
Into the fabric of their lives.
Somewhere I see my mother frantically
trying to stitch together
The pieces of her broken heart while
My grandmother holds her sanity taut
With the string she keeps knitting and unraveling,
knitting and unraveling
And knitting again like the stories of her life
She tells to anyone who will stop to listen

I’m from failed marriages and single parent households,
Divorce settlements and child custody agreements challenged and
Child support promises broken.
I’m from fists thrust through plastered walls
Voices raised till they bleed
And mirrors cracked to reflect the
wicked witches and ominous orgres
who populate childhood nightmares and
the fractured fairy tales of step children.

I’m from Mt Airy and Pine Valley
Fayette Street and Grace Lane
Moving from concrete common driveways
And houses so close together you
Feel your neighbors breathe
To wide open lawns like spacious edens
Where children run free in shrouded innocence
Until fences, sowed by feuds
And watered by misunderstanding
Sub-divide our youth.

I’m from now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the lord to keep my parents together
Doomed from the start,
An only child married to the oldest of ten
Her silent upbringing offended by
His boisterous bounty of brothers
Dinnertime as survival of the fittest.
Family as an embarrassment of children.

When my father left us to lead his own life
He uprooted the family tree and transplanted it
In a faraway land I was barred from entering
Leaving me only the misremembered stories of
Lost legions of people who look like me, and share my name
But live somewhere only in my imagination.

Marsha Pincus is a post-mid life woman, riding the Age Wave and writing for her life.

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  1. What a wonderful homage to George Ella Lyon and to where YOU are from, the messy, the wonderful, the painful, the sights and the smells of growing up in a family. Dina

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