When I meet new people, inevitably the question comes, “so where are you from?” Occasionally it’s worded, “So… are you from Memphis originally?” but that’s usually with some hesitation in the voice. It’s pretty obvious from the moment I open my mouth that I’m not a born-and-bred Memphian. I may have added some Southernisms to my speech in the last few years, but I sure don’t have the accent.
I actually never know how to respond. Sometimes I just say, “I moved here from Pennsylvania,” if it’s just a passing conversation. Often, though, I respond with the more complex answer, because, frankly, I really am not from anywhere. So this week’s Once Upon a Time is a little peek into my geographic history.
1. I was born in Portland, OR. I wish I remembered more of it, because I know it is a fabulous city. I haven’t been back since I was about 14 or 15. I guess, if anywhere, this is where I’m from. My parents are both Californians and I think that if there’s any geographical influence in my life, it’s probably West Coast.
2. My dad has always worked for the church, but when I was 5.5 we moved across country to Richmond, VA, so he could go to seminary to become a pastor. Richmond was a fabulous place to be a homeschooling family. Again, my memories of the city itself are vague, but I can recall many fun trips to DC and to surrounding historical sites. Colonial Williamsburg, plantations, Civil War reenactments. It didn’t matter here where we were from because everyone at the seminary was from somewhere different – even around the world.
3. My dad’s first church was in a little town in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We lived a few blocks from Green Bay, and I have lots of memories walking down to the street along the bay with my family. The best beach for swimming was a few minutes’ drive away. I was very happy here… the queen bee of my group of homeschooling girlfriends and enjoying the attention of being a pastor’s kid (I may or may not have been a bit of an attention-seeking child). We arrived here when I was almost 8, and left the summer I turned 13.
4. The small town near Pittsburgh, PA, is place where I lived longest (9 years). You might think this would be the place I name as where I’m from, but this town and the one in MI are places where you’re not from there unless you’re really from there. Attending the local school from kindergarten on up, spending Friday nights at the highschool football games, marking the summer with the annual festivals. Grandparents living closeby and knowing who formerly lived in which old house. It’s not that we didn’t join in to the town life, we just weren’t complete, tried-and-true locals! Being a pastor’s family always sets you apart a little. I went to college just an hour away. I really did love living here and this is probably the place I’d say I “grew up.” 13-21 is a pretty important life chapter.
5. Finally Memphis! I moved here a few months after my college graduation (in fact I signed my lease on my 22 birthday). It was supposed to be a short, two-year adventure with A., my roomie-since-freshman-year. She had a commitment to the teaching program she entered and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do in life so I came along. Fast forward 4.5 years. We’ve both fallen in love with the city and are nurturing ever-deepening roots (she’s married!). Without a doubt, Memphis is my home town.
So now you see why I never have a simple answer for the “where are you from?” question. I guess for me it’s a little easier to look at other influences to respond to the query. I am from my parents, from my sister and my brother. I am from homeschooling. I am from books and history and imagination. I am from love and faith. I am from the family of God.
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” ~ Romans 8:14 & 15
So where are YOU from? How do you respond to that question?