January 31st, 2017


LJI:7 Where I'm from

Wisconsin.  That’s where I was born and raised and if you ask me where I am from, that’s the answer.  Seymour might have been the platonic ideal of Midwestern small town upbringing, neighbor kids around the same age, a crossing guard who stopped traffic on Main Street (also a state highway) for us to go to and from school, and empty fields nearby to play in.  We lived on a dead-end road so we didn’t have to worry about traffic when we learned to ride bikes, no chain restaurant moved in until I was in high school (I got my first official job at the Dairy Queen), and we were still the new people ten years after we arrived.

I went to college in Indiana, but college is always a place of transience with people from all over.  After college I moved around to a few different states for a variety of internships and summer gigs but I wasn’t ever anywhere long enough to be from there.    Nope, I was from Wisconsin: cheese-head, Packer fan, salt of the earth Midwesterner.  I still call them bubblers, damn it.  (A water fountain is the large feature in a courtyard where you can throw pennies for a wish.   The public appliance where you hold down a button to get a stream of water to drink from is a bubbler.  Why is this so confusing to people from, um, everywhere else?)

After all of the moving around of my post-collegiate years I settled down in California, the Bay Area specifically.  I lived in five different cities on the Peninsula in my nearly twenty years there, and had friends scattered throughout the area but some things, like doctors or my favorite fish and chips place, stayed constant.  I experienced a few earthquakes, got used to summer as a dry season, and learned that up to the minute traffic reports were a necessity.  But the Bay Area is such a popular place to live it seems like most people are transplants from somewhere else, so even as the years ticked by I was never from there.

This past April we moved from California to Colorado, just outside Denver.  Now when someone asks where I’m from my brain gets stuck.  I’m still from Wisconsin, but I haven’t lived there since 1993.  (Though I did live in WI longer than CA by several months.  Yes, I did that math.)  These days, I suppose, I’m from California, or at least most recently.  That’s usually what people are asking anyway, not where was I born and raised, but where I was before this.

But that has its own pitfalls, as some Coloradans are very grumpy about people moving to their state: making their housing market tighter, their roads fuller, and taking their jobs, especially the people who moved from California.   I know, I’ve been told so several times with varying degrees of amusement and frustration after telling folks where I was before the move.  I have a response prepared: my husband was raised in Colorado and we moved back to be closer to families.  I’m just along for the ride.  Somehow that makes it okay.

I’ve never had anyone angry at me about where I was from before.  I never thought it was that important, more a clue into someone’s upbringing and personal identity, than a badge used to judge whether or not someone belongs.  It’s been uncomfortable to deal with, and I realize that so many people deal with this all the time, and in ways that are much nastier, especially now.

Maybe I have to retrain my automatic response.  Maybe I, and everyone else, should just be from earth.

***this is my entry for week 7 of LJ Idol, the topic post if you want to read other folks take is here."
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