This post was the result of a brilliant idea from the brilliant mind of the brilliant Mama Kat. People like me — with no original ideas of our own but plenty to say — were prompted to copy this template and then fill in the blanks. The finished product strikes me as a poetic Mad Lib about “Where I’m From.” One of my favorite prompts, and one of my personal favorite posts. Thanks AGAIN, Mama Kat.
WHERE I’M FROM
I am from the smell of clear nail polish applied by my mother on Saturday nights in the 70s, from blue-boxed Ronzoni pasta that guaranteed I would eat dinner, and middle class New Jersey.
I am from a fairly modest 50s-era ranch house on a “glen” shaped like the number 9, a blend of Country French furniture and formica, a certain suburban smell I can neither describe nor forget.
I am from shiny green bushes with little red berries that are toxic when ingested but satisfying to smush, and from massive pine trees that seem grandfatherly against the rest of the yard.
I am from endless dinners at Ferraro’s, “secret recipe” matzo ball soup at Passover, August vacations on Cape Cod and routine anxiety. I am from Ethel and Phil and Mildred, and from Hannah and Irving.
I am from intellect, kindness and malaise, from insane generosity and differing levels of emotional intimacy.
From pulled muscles as the root cause of all discomfort and the idea that “Sweet Valley High” books rot the brain.
I am from survivors, from homemade bright pink borscht and primary-colored Hanukkah candles, from the trumping of theology by tradition. I am from fluctuating faith exemplified by this question, posed to a rabbi and resulting in ejection from Hebrew school class: If I said God spoke to me, you’d put me in a mental hospital.
I am from a medical center viewable from the FDR Drive, from the shtetl, from Hungarian peasants living in Czechoslovakia with head scarves and mules. I am from great-aunts and great-uncles who did not get out in time, some who made it home again and some who did not. I am from “the casbah” and displaced persons camps, from letters written in foreign languages by relatives I never met, from a tavern in Irvington, from places in Newark torn down for the highway.
I am from the bottom drawer of a massive wooden night table, where good report cards and poorly drawn birthday cards mingle with ancient address books and black and white photos with ruffled edges. I am from carousel after carousel of Kodachrome slides kept under lock and key, from shoe boxes filled with 35mm pictures capturing life in exotic places like Holland, Woodbridge, Scotch Plains and New Brunswick. From journals written on loose-leaf paper and later typed and dot-matrix’ed, telling what is basically the same story over and over. I am from a childhood that never felt happy, for no good reasons other than faulty wiring, family feuds and yes, some tragedy. I am from a childhood I will always strive to fix, knowing, as a British royal allegedly said, that there is no cure for the past.