Pythian Games

put on your track shoes and write the miles

Identity Poem

with 10 comments

I am from German sauerbraten and Jewish chollah bread, from Easter eggs and matzo, from English roast beef and Russian borscht, from American cheese macaroni and English Yorkshire pudding and French crullers. I am from a diversity of foods from the various cultures crisscrossing in my ancestry.

I am from a home with a white picket fence that I scraped and painted every summer, or so it seems. A home where my mother was always there to love us unconditionally and welcome us home as she was available every day after school to listen; where my father was the only father on the block to play stick ball with all of us kids in the neighborhood, and took me to movies and museums; where the family all went camping, even making our own first tent, stitch by stitch, together. I am from a family that camps and plays and works together and does many things “from scratch.”

I am from lilacs and lilies of the valley and violets in the house yard; from feeding pigeons and squirrels in the park; from ‘don’t make any noise’ in the apartment to run free in the woods at the house; from apple trees and oaks in the woods; from asphalt on the city-apartment roof to playing kick the can in the surburban street; from homemade jelly and pickles and breads and cakes; from handmade finished real-room for me and a schoolhouse for my dolls, and with a fort, a castle and paper-mache dinosaurs for my brothers (and thereby, also for me).

I am from a diverse cultural and religious family with roots through my mother’s mother of German Catholic and her father’s side of Jewish Russian. My father’s side was English, Scotch and French Protestants. My mother’s brother married the daughter of a Baptist minister. My father’s large sibling family later consisted of an atheist, a Christian Scientist, a Catholic, 2 Protestants, and 2 agnostics. I amalgamate all this, and delight in the differences.

From my maternal strong-willed grandmother who in the early 1900’s as a teenager enjoyed being pulled around Central Park in New York City while sitting on a large block of ice, and a maternal retiring grandfather who, in his youth, rode a motorcycle and ran liquor during Prohibition, being shot at by the Coast Guard; from my tiny paternal grandmother the strength to raise 8 children (one died when young of whooping cough) with hardly any help or money, and a paternal grandfather who went out on strike in sympathy with other new subway-railroad employees in the early 1900’s in Manhattan and then stayed out in principal when everyone else returned to work after compromising safety issues, and spent the rest of his days at home being largely ignored by his struggling wife and children.

I am from strong, independent and idealistic stock simmered in a well-seasoned sauce of love. But with a sprinkling of fear also: fears of losing my father in World War II, about my mother, grandfather and I being killed if the Germans won because of our Jewish background, of being bombed by submarines lurking in the waters just off Manhattan; of fears of not having enough money to raise 5 children, of my never being perfect enough to always get 100 on tests, of speaking of that which contradicted the white picket fence image. Strong enough to move away from birth family as my husband and I literally built our house ourselves, nail by nail; strong enough to move to Arkansas to hopefully live off the land and do everything “from scratch” once again; strong enough to leave after 33 years of marriage and create a new spirit-enhancing life for myself even as the fears emerge now and then. I am from tradition, even if diverse, with some eccentricity and individualism for a measure of spice. I have taken these ingredients, re-combined them to make a very untraditional life for myself: a New Yorker now living in Arkansas, a former Catholic now a devotee of a spiritual teacher, a married woman with children into a woman now with children and grandchildren but also with a female soulmate, a stay-at-home mom into a full-time employee, a previously thin, active, athletic person into a heavier, older, grayer, more introspective, more interested in being than in doing, a seeker searching in many directions now a more balanced, well-rounded, individuated person. I am from many and now am becoming One.

Written by thalia

March 14, 2008 at 6:30 pm

10 Responses

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  1. So many rich traditions to draw from; so many possibilities in the future. I really enjoyed reading this.


    March 14, 2008 at 6:51 pm

  2. you are from roots but found your own wings, building your new life, integrating all your rich experiences – congratulations!


    March 14, 2008 at 7:02 pm

  3. It is wonderful how we each take all the things that make us and become unique, isn’t it?


    March 14, 2008 at 8:55 pm

  4. This is magnificent – what a heritage!


    March 15, 2008 at 1:14 am

  5. Wow Thalia. This is quite an entry to the Pythian Games stage. I am so pleased that you are here and know that you have a rich contribution to make. Looking forward to working alongside you.

    Heather Blakey

    March 15, 2008 at 2:37 am

  6. So interesting to find such a piece on the night I could return to this place. Fran


    March 15, 2008 at 11:53 am

  7. I love the richness of your identity and the words you found to captivate us with your heritage. Beautiful!


    March 15, 2008 at 2:41 pm

  8. Great to weave all the ingredients together for identity!


    March 15, 2008 at 11:34 pm

  9. you are lucky to have such a wealth of traditions and culture behind you. I really enjoyed reading this and look forward to reading more of your work. Welcome to our group!


    March 16, 2008 at 9:08 am

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