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  • I am from a farm town that slid into suburbia in time-lapse frames
    as I pedaled my paper route after school with a big canvas bag
    bringing news of interstate highways and fallout shelters and Sputnik
    and that the computers were coming but nothing about the Internet
    and remember seeing constellations and eclipses and shooting stars
    and watching kittens being born and hearing insects everywhere.
    Oh the crickets and cicadas and fireflies and tiny frogs chirping in trees!

    I am from a tall Catalpa tree by our porch planted on her honeymoon by
    an old lady we knew with its popcorn flowers and string bean pods that
    I had to rake up after they dropped and before I mowed the grass sitting
    on a sulky my father had kindly made for our Reo lawnmower and
    I remember my grandmother's gardens full of primroses and
    sweetpeas and sunflowers and roses and petunias and zinnias.
    I liked her morning glories best.
  • I am from New England and upstate New York houses with quiet
    parlors dimmed by Coleus and Geraniums smelling of damp and
    tobacco with oriental rugs and overstuffed furniture and flyspecked
    wallpaper and radios bigger than me and I remember a boy next door
    who I never knew practicing American Patrol on his trumpet over
    and over though the big war my father did not go to was over.
    I was five when I saw soldiers suffering a bitter Korean winter on TV.

    I am from pogrom-scattered Russian Jews settling in New Jersey,
    merchants morphing into American farmers who forsook the land
    for education and lost touch with their traditions and I remember
    my aunts and great aunts making blintzes and matzo ball soup
    and gossiping about their relatives in Manhattan kitchens while
    the menfolk smoked in the parlor and worried about the news.
    When I moved to there for college only a few were left to visit.
  • I am from mineral collections and model trains on a big green table
    and electronic projects and my chemistry lab where I made soap
    and dyes and fizzy stuff and high explosives that should have
    killed me but I was lucky and I remember turning my lab into
    a darkroom when I got my first camera and father taught me
    to develop and print photos like the one I took of a chipmunk
    after waiting an hour for him to emerge from his burrow,
    under my tree house where I went to read comic books.

    I am from preachers and teacher elders who could bring out the best
    in people even if they did not know how they did it except by
    listening to people and being helpful even though they did not
    always get along with each other, especially with my grandfather
    upstairs watching Cronkite and sitcoms and with his devoted wife
    and ranting about juvenile delinquents and commies and liberals.
    I remember his pride in the hundreds of books that lined his study
    that I sold after he died but now in my study I write at his big desk.

    And I am from a mother and father who earned little but burnished
    the world with their generosity of spirit and activism and taught me
    to value truth telling and learning and respect for all and made
    me do my homework and feed the chickens and gather eggs and
    I remember being sent to Sunday school at a church by myself
    where I colored pictures of the Holy Family and drew one of them
    flying in an airplane in the clouds with their pilot Pontius.
    That was my first pun.

    Geoff Dutton, September 2013

    @image: Aerial map of my home town made by O.H. Bailey in 1882. When I was born we lived in a historic house next to the church at the lower left and across Main Street from the Town Hall.
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