I am from distant lands, I’ve never seen. A place that my ancestors could no longer fathom to stay, who excitedly and anxiously dreamed of an American dream.
I am from their imagination and adventurous risk.
I am from the unwillingness to accept newcomers. The shame of being the undesired, the poor, the immigrant. I am from Mary who gave even her name to fit in. No longer acceptable to be called, Karen, because she was in America now.
I am from her assimilation.
I am from the heartland of America, the soil of the great up north, the hard work and sweat of the farm. I am from NFO, the National Farmers organization. I am from 4-H (I don’t even know what that stands for)! I am from Holdingford and Little falls and Mizpah…and St Cloud.
I am from my grandfather’s many late nights in grassroots social justice.
I am from my grandmother’s halted youth. Her interrupted life. Her delayed dreams of college and career. Her complacent acceptance of society’s expectations for her, and her inability to choose. I am from my grandfather’s dream of “cheaper by the dozen” and… ineffective birth control.
I am from my grandmother’s strength and sacrifice.
I am from naivete and young love, and commitment for commitment’s sake. I am from the hope of my mother, who saw beyond the darkness. I am from unimaginable choices, and the deepest fears in my mother’s heart. I am from her brilliance, stunning intelligence, and feisty feminism.
I am from her deep, deep love.
I am from mystery. My father unknown to me. Never knowing nuclear family. I am from abuse, divorce, adoption: mother, sister, stepfather, step brother half-brother.
I am from my blended family.
I am from the bond of my companion. The one who chose me and chooses me every day since. I am from the tension we hold of “love me as I am” and “help me become what I can be”. I am from the depths of his patience, and his willingness to forgive my imperfection.
I am from my husband’s continuously evolving love.
And me, I am from music, and singing. And flip flops and pickleball. I am from butterflies and stardust, and the lighted tunnels on I-94.
I am from beets and babalki, from beauty and becoming. I am from the night markets in Central Park, and the exciting fright of tandem biking.
I am from passion and compassion, from Munsinger to the Ironbound. I am from the hands that hold me, and the lights that move to sound.
I am from those giants that have gone before me, those who have extended their reach. I am from my endless learning and, now, just beginning to teach.