Where I’m From …

I read Where I’m From, by Sharla Lovelace before I read her debut novel, The Reason is You. Sharla used many these images in her story, a must read. A week ago she published the post on her blog for a second time.

You can also read the original link by Fred First and the template used for this post, as well as Laura Drake and Orly Konig Lopez … who posted Where I’m From on the RWA-Women’s Fiction Facebook page.

Time is getting short and my moving date is in exactly eighteen days. Sadly, all my family’s old black and white photographs, and the early color shots of me and my siblings are packed.

Come with me to the time of my life … to where I’m from:

Picture of sunset park

Where I’m From:

I’m from Italian-American blue-collar, cold flats with coal-burning stoves and slick linoleum. I’m from the wrong side of the trolley tracks, from factory workers who had precious little time for playgroups or little league.

I’m from the wail of freight trains and foghorns in the bay, from the giant white factories of Bush, from the long lines of women, backs bent, heads bowed sewing piecework. From the longshoremen loading and unloading the countless ships arriving at the docks of New York, from the machine and metal shops, and cobblestone roads and train yards.

Non-for-profit image of Bush Terminal

I’m from the Greek diner, the Jewish deli, from the Italian bakery and Joey’s Grocery who my dad paid once a week from small brown envelopes. I am from the Chinese laundry, starched collars and cuffs, and Mrs. Applebaum’s corner candy store where all the neighbors made and received phone calls for a dime. I’m from nickel rides on trolleys and subways, from old cars and new dreams.

I’m from seven men who sailed the ocean to find a dream in the Mid Hudson Valley, from the seven women they married, from three dialects in Italian to Poughkeepsie twang and Brooklyn-ese spoken with a lisp.

I’m from an Italian merchant seaman who loved cowboys and baseball and cried when he listened to opera. From the daughter of a dirt farmer, a woman who “put up” peaches every summer, smoked unfiltered Pall Mall, loved musicals and played canasta with the girls.

I am from long legs and tall tales, from sawdust and wood stains, from harmonicas and car models scattered on tables, and guitars always in the corner of the kitchen. From pasta fagioli and cannolis, from tomato sauce made from scratch every Thursday and Sunday.

I’m from a bark with no bite, and from hands that wielded a wooden spoon like a Samaria warrior. From cool hands on fevered brows, from soft hands on sleepy heads.

I’m from the wrong side of Sunset Park in a strange place called Brooklyn, from strong men and stronger women, from rowdy boys and scraped knees. I’m from the last age of innocence, from stand up Philco radios and board games, from hop scotch and jump rope and a cigar box of marbles.

I’m from a musician and a mathematician, from an artist and a linguist, from a handsome devil, and a dark beauty. I am from Old Spice and lilac toilet water, from dusting powder that tickled my nose, rough sand soap and unforgiving wash boards, from backyard clothes lines and pigeon coops, from airy ways and tenement houses.

I’m from solid steel skates and orange crate scooters, from stickball in vacant lots and stoop ball, from street games, and leap-frog over hydrants, from pole climbing, rock-throwing urchins, and from women who shouted from windows in two languages.

I’m from Mary Janes and penny candies, Orange Crush and Grape Nehigh in a coffin-sized soda box. From Double Bubble and two older brothers who were double trouble. From Marlon Brando and Sophia Loren, from Fellini and Pavarotti, from Sinatra to boys singing a cappella under streetlights. I am from Coney Island, and Nathan’s finest, from the Cyclone to the carousel, from walking the streets late at night with no fear.

I’m from crooners and swivel hipped rockers, from braids and pony tails, blue jeans and swishy skirts, “Skippy” sneakers and flat shoes, from rock’n roll shows at the Brooklyn Paramount to Saturday movies downtown, from dollar pizzas and nickel cokes.

I’m from chaos and love blended with garlic and noisy dinner tables. From loud passionate men and impossible, crazy women, from three generations and two continents.

I’m from Maria Carmela Fieore and Salvatore Augustine Fois, and from Dominick, the middle one we lost too soon. From Bob, the big guy, the only one left, from a legacy of those who molded me like a mound of clay, and taught me how to think, to work, and to play.

Tell me … where are you from?

What are the touchstones that define who you are,

the sign  posts along the highway that have guided you?

fOIS In The City

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32 Comments

Filed under Random Thoughts

32 responses to “Where I’m From …

  1. Florence,
    Your imagery astounds me. I truly enjoyed this post so much. It’s wonderful to hear about all the men, women, and places that have molded you into the person you are today.

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  2. As Brinda noted, great imagery. I really get a sense of you from this post, Florence. You shine through.
    Thanks.

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    • Patti … if you don’t mind … I’ll use this comment to SHOUT OUT for your success. Congrats on getting an agent. You are so ready and so talented whoever reps you will be one lucky devil :)

      Thanks for the kind words … it’s easy to shine when so many have held up the lights for me !!

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  3. Beautiful, Florence. I can almost smell the garlic and nostalgia in your words. Isn’t it funny that we’re all from different places, different times, but we all share the feelings these memories evoke.

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    • Laura, the beauty of this idea is that it matters little where we came from … it hold true for everyone … memories are the soft whispers we hear in our dreams. Glad to be in such good company with you, Sharla and Orly :)

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  4. Ditto to everything Laura said. Beautiful, just beautiful. Off to re-read it.

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  5. vicki batman

    Aah, Florence. You really took me to where you are from. I hope your move goes well. Congratulations on the new life adventure.

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  6. If you don’t turn your Brooklyn posts into a photo/poetry book for the world’s coffee table, we’ll all lose out.

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    • Thank you so very much, Shelley. I love my little In The City stuff so much, I might just do that one day. For now, I am content entertaining my readers here. Who knows what the future might bring?

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  7. annerallen

    What a beautiful piece of writing. Lovely and honest.. Moving to a new home is such a wrenching experience, but you have expressed so much love for that you’re leaving behind. Showing how “to love that well which thou must leave ‘ere long” as the Bard put it.

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    • Anne … I think the key to happiness is finding joy in each new place and time. It keeps us young and makes great memories :) Thanks for your lovely thoughts … what I will leave ‘ere long’ will always be with me in spirit.

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  8. Awesome post, Florence!!! Love it. I could see and smell and feel it all. I love how these exercises do that.

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  9. Florence,

    Don’t apologize for the packed photos. With writing such as this, photos aren’t needed. You appealed to several different senses with each example and allowed those of us of a similar generation used to creating images from what we heard or read to imagine. To remember…To treasure what you shared with us today.

    Thank you.

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    • So true, Casey … the true images live in our minds and hearts and those are always available to enjoy :) What I treasure the most are also the stories of so many others who inspire and set the standard. Thanks again :)

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  10. Florence – I could see, smell, feel, hear and everything else with this beautiful post. I agree – I so want a coffee table book with your words and pictures and I don’t even have a coffee table. I love, love, love the pictures you painted that dance through my head as I’m sipping my morning coffee.

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    • Sheri … that book has been written in my head a hundred times. I never know which page I will open, who I will fiind. And if I can convince several of the photographers whose actual images I use to lend or “rent” images, I might go through the final phase of putting her between the boards. Thanks so much for another visit :)

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  11. I love this post, Florence. With it, you wrap yourself in memories–the best mover’s blanket/bubblewrap/crumpled newsprint-free cushioning there is.

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  12. I absolutely adore these slices of your life, Florence. You make me wish I could step into your shoes and see your life from your eyes and experiences, if only for a day or a year. :)

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  13. Wow, I’m so touched my your words and the images they bring to mind. Your writing is so poetic and beautiful, gives me chill bumps! Hmmm, where I’m from isn’t so nice. I’m from a home where I was molested by an uncle and it tore my parents marriage apart . . . from a place where from the K-2 years I had to steal lunches of my classmates to survive b/c I had no responsible adult to care for me . . . from a place where children and sadly, even teachers, mocked and ridiculed me, until one day Mrs. Davis changed my life and inspired me to become a teacher (I’ll be forever grateul) . . . from a place where I lived with an abusive alcoholic stepfather for 10 years and where I tried to commit suicide twice . . . then from a place of redemption and miracles and God’s grace and forgiveness and restoration and, and . . . I could go on and on. In the end, I come from a place where I had to die a little so I could be more alive . . . from a place where I had to let go and let God:-)

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    • I appreciate you words, Jamie … and I am reminded of one pure fact of life. Not a single second can we skip or erace … not one memory can we shun … each of them become who we are today. In the end, you became a strong, happy and loving teacher, mother and wife … and all those terrible moments made you stronger and more appreciative of what you have now :) In the light of wisdom, you have taken all of those memories and made a new life … and what a great gift that has been !!

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  14. Florence, what a beautiful capsule of a life full of color and memories!
    I am from the South–a land of red clay hills, cotton fields as far as the eye can see, loblolly pine forests, oak trees draped with Spanish moss, magnolia trees with blossoms the size of dinner plates.

    A land of mockingbirds, cardinals, and hoot owls; of water moccasins, black widow spiders, mosquitoes, and bull frogs the size of Rubic cubes.

    I am from a land of kudzu, honeysuckle, wild plums and muscadines and huckleberries, where the temperature and humidity curves intersect near 100.

    The South is a land of fried chicken, fried catfish, fried green tomatoes, red-eye gravy, biscuits and molasses, corn bread and pecan pie.

    I am from a place steeped in the history of the past: Civil War, civil rights, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther KIng,Jr. Of integration, freedom riders and James Meredith. Elvis Presley and country music, of fiddles and hoola hoops, playing jacks and hopscotch, fishing with a pole and worms on a hook, reading comic books and building tree houses.

    I am from a town of 200 farmers where school was the center of the community and basketball ruled. Where merry-go-rounds and sliding boards, see-saws and gym bars decorated the campus and chocolate milk cost 3 cents a carton.

    I am from a family of scrappy Dutch and Irish sharecroppers and sawmillers, from a housewife mother who knew how to grow a garden and a soldier hero father who was a railroad man.

    It was a great life in a great place with great folk! I hope my children will be able to look back on their lives and say the same.

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  15. Florence, I never tire of hearing the stories about your childhood. This time, you gave us precious peeks into the lives of the people who conceived and raised you.

    What a treat of a read! Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your piece of the American dream.

    Like

  16. christicorbett

    I love love LOVE when you do these posts! It’s my chance to see the city through your eyes, and you give such lovely and fun details I always feel as though I’ve seen it myself!

    Christi Corbett

    Like

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