Monday, July 27, 2009

Where Are You From?

It seems like a very easy question. Los Angeles. St. Louis. Maybe you think bigger. Texas. Michigan. Maybe even the US.

But if you really asked people to tell you where they "came from", you'd get different answers. Sometimes it would be lineage ("I'm a Kennedy"). Sometimes it would be cultural heritage ("I'm Irish Catholic"). Sometimes it would be based on other formative factors ("I'm a steel-mill worker's kid" or "I'm a military brat").

I never had a great answer to this question. I wasn't born to money or fame or a lineage anyone cared about. I was born in a town no one has heard of if you didn't live within 50 miles of it. I grew up in an even smaller town. Sometimes I would say "I'm a farmer's daughter". It represented a work ethic; gave people the clear idea that I was not born of privilege, but a mere plebeian. But my family had no pedigree. My hometown had no claim to fame. I don't think I met any famous people until I left the state.

When I graduated high school, I left home, with no real intention of going back except as a visitor. And I had good reason. While I loved my family, my hometown held nothing for me but family. No opportunity to stretch my wings or reach for more. My life goals felt incongruous with the way others lived their life. I wanted something bigger. I was the first in my family to get a bachelor's degree. First in my family to get a master's degree. Even now, I have little in common in my day to day life with most of my relatives.

I went back to Wisconsin for a long weekend and family reunion. To the house I grew up in . A house that is barely 1,000 square feet and now holds 4 adults and 2 children since my brother and his wife and kids live with Mom and Dad. As much as I can hardly believe they can all live on top of each other like that, when my Dad was a child, he lived there with his parents, his grandmother, and a total of 8 children. And the house actually had about 200 less square feet. How 11 people lived there and didn't kill each other, much less find time and privacy to procreate, is absolutely beyond me.

I spend time thinking about my family, and what would I say the next time I was asked where I come from. They are simple people, with no pedigrees or credentials or material things to envy. Some have married "up", but most have lived quiet, average lives of contentment, right where they started and right where they'll die.

But this weekend, I was reminded that they are good people. They do not have money or goods to be generous, but they are generous with their time and efforts. They will help each other do anything. They will welcome you into their home. They will share their food and drink, asking only a dish to share. But if you didn't have one, they'd feed you anyway, because that's what you do with guests. They'll share your joy over your kids latest achievement, or your woe over the latest economic hardships.

They are good people. Not rich people. Not famous people. Not history-makers. Just good people.

Funny thing is, when I think about my close friends, and my extended network of friends, I notice that the bulk of them are also "good people." Not always rich, not always famous, but good people.

So next time someone asks me where I'm from, I know the answer. I'm from good people.

Respectfully submitted,

The Wife


SirFWALGMan said...

I am from the hood. I have street cred. Word.

PrinceofHouston said...

In survey done a few years ago, people from Texas were the only ones to identify themselves as Texans first Americans second. All others surveyed were USA first their state second.
I always found this to be an interesting fact.

PS sorry about your butt, but now you have a good reason to go see the massage therapist.

PrinceofHouston said...

PPS I grew up on a cotton farm, and I know I'm from good people, and I know I'm good people because I look at the friends that I have, and figure a d-bag couldn't have friends this good.

Anonymous said...

What a thoughtful, perceptive, and ultimately, beautiful post. It really touched me.

BamBam said...

'Just' isn't needed, (IMHO) when you're discussing good people. I think it's quite the opposite in fact!

You know me.


Drizztdj said...

I hope to pass on my "good people" upbringing to my kids.