Where I’m From
I’m from the Florida Panhandle in the 70’s, 80’s, and early 90’s. The unknown Florida with her southern accents, leisurely pace, canopy roads, sweet tea, and the dying era of southern belles and gentlemen.
I’m from a time and place that celebrates the land. The tall pines towering above all others, the mighty live oaks dripping with spanish moss, the fragrant tea olive, the bursting azaleas, the delicate dogwoods, the glossy-leaved camellias, and the vibrant hydrangea. Ponds, marshes, lakes, and meandering drives to hidden beaches along the unexploited coast.
I’m from a treasured neighborhood and tight-knit group of neighbors (aka the Betton Hills Gang). It was idyllic, but not because it lacked angst. It was idyllic in its honesty and imperfections. What is truer in life than conflict, squabbling, camaraderie, occasional cruelty, appreciation of nature, and shared experiences?
I’m from a childhood of barefeet, tumbling, sports, climbing trees, swimming, and riding bikes.
I’m from a place where I went to school with friends from kindergarten through our senior year of high school and even Florida State! Where friends and neighbors were of different ethnic, religious, political, and socio-economic backgrounds.
I’m from a family that valued intelligence, fairness, integrity, and humility.
I’m from a family that lived in fear. A father diagnosed with cancer when I was a toddler and my mom was pregnant with my sister. A once active father now without cancer but also without his lymph nodes. A father with a swollen arm in pain when the weather is above 80 degrees. A father that needed rest. A father that might get cancer again. A father at risk of dying.
I’m from a life of emotional uncertainty. A mother struggling with mental illness and food addiction. Depression, occasional mania, anxiety, obesity, breakdowns. Memories of spur of the moment adventures. Memories of her tear-stained face incapable of getting out of bed.
I’m from a life of self-sufficiency. Of taking care of myself. And my sister. And sometimes my mom.
I’m from a family of divorce. A mother who walked away, but was doing her best. To fix things that she had to do on her own. A father who, even in his physical pain, was my emotional anchor.
I’m from a family that supported my intelligence and independence. My scholarships and awards were revered. My acceptance to the top-ranked UT was praised and encouraged. My desire to move from where I was from was accepted.
I’m from a place of introversion and shyness. From being a late bloomer. And yet, simultaneously, a place of self-assuredness.
I’m from the golden age of tv and music. Laughter with the whole family as we watched Dallas and the Dukes of Hazard.
I’m from one of the best pop culture eras of all time. Alex P. Keaton, Maverick, Depeche Mode, Yacht Rock, MTV, Toonces the Driving Cat, Madchester, airbrushed t-shirts, Mr. Miyagi, pom poms on my roller skates, comb in my back pocket, feathered bangs, John Hughes movies, the Fonz, Remington Steele, River Phoenix, school dances in gyms.
I’m from a home filled with live music. A talented dad who played “I Saw the Light” and the Beverly Hillbillies theme on the banjo or “The Sweetheart Tree” on the piano. A mom who played piano and organ plus sang. A sister who played the piano and sang. (The gene mutated for me — I have no discernible musical skills other than an enormous passion for music and what my musical friends have dubbed a “producer’s ear.”)
I’m from a small-ish town filled with natural beauty, some of the smartest people I have ever met, gentility, and manners. A flawed place that has crime, poverty, and illiteracy. But a place that celebrates family, friends, home, food, big football games, and quiet spaces, too.
Quite frankly, I miss where I’m from. And I may return.
If you enjoyed this story, you might also like:
Home Is Not Where the Heart Is
An Ode to Childhood, Marston Road, and the Betton Hills Gang
Thank you for reading this story
I know you are busy and have lots of ways you could be spending your time. You using your time to read my work means the world to me — my sincerest thanks!