I am from Raymond
I am from the cause of a shotgun wedding, whose parents divorced by the time he was 2, in an age and a place where both of those things covered a child in shame.
From the boy whose mother died when he was 13 and whose stepmother drove him away from his father's house.
From wanting a red-haired daughter to name for the grandmother who took him in and taught him to sew and to cook, from naming a son for the uncle who took him in and taught him mechanics and how to be a man.
I am from dropping out of school so he could support family during the Depression but being a voracious reader and having more sense than many men with PhDs.
I am from hoes and Burpee seeds, from a workshop where every tool was shined and placed back on the peg board in its particular outline and baby food jars of nuts, screws, nails, and bolts were lined up and labelled in meticulous order. I am from Mason canning jars and a stock of jellies, jams, and chow-chow. I am from a heavy Singer sewing machine and finer embroidery than many women can produce.
I am from rounding up excess barn kittens to be drowned but naming the ones spared and sharing sandwiches with them.
I am from faith that makes sacrifice, from true religion that takes care of widows and orphans, from tear-streaked cheeks during 'How Great Thou Art.'
I am from the tiny brick house purchased for $8450 in 1946. From the front porch with the English hapenny pressed into the wet concrete.
I am from the German man who cussed a blue streak in Italian and who went white when I repeated the torrent of profanity at age 10. From threats to 'cloud up and rain all over you' if I misbehaved. From not putting off until tomorrow what can be done today and always keeping your word.
From 'If clothes make the man, I am a poor measure of a man.' From wearing uniform shirts until they were threadbare and still having a stack of 12 new shirts in the closet on the day he died even though he'd been retired at least 10 years. From gleefully wearing a striped tie with plaid pants to church and cutting hair crew cut short after his wife died 'because she's not here to holler at me about it' then weeping...because she was no longer there to holler about it.
I am from raucous laughter over pranks and jokes, from anonymous acts of charitable generosity, from softly spoken words of wisdom, and from soul crushing depression.
I am from headstones scattered through several cemeteries and solemn field trips to them when family lore was handed down as we stood over the graves. I am from a yellowed love letter with a 3 page poem and Western Union telegrams at the end of the war. I am from a tattered Japanese flag that transformed a peaceful countenance to one of rage.
I am from the man who claimed he was a stern father who lost his temper too easily, who said he was a poor husband who caused his wife too much sorrow, who in his last years wept easily over what his sons had done to their wives and children.
And though my 3 cousins would not acknowledge him while he lived due to perceived slights and the bitterness of their mother,
I will stand without shame,
and proclaim with pride,