Thursday, September 27, 2012

Lilly’s "I Am From" Poem

My daughter started middle school this week.  Her back grew smaller as she hefted her backpack and walked into the morning sun with her friends.  I hung in the doorway waiting for her to turn around.  When she didn't, I shouted, "Goodbye girls!   Have fun storming the castle!"

She still didn't turn around.

I felt a little bit lonely for her, knowing she would face the potential horrors of middle school on her own.  But some of the best times as a parent are the ones where you send your children off into the world armed only with the love you instilled, and they come back to you not only unharmed but exhilarated by their own independence. 

That’s what I told myself.

But this morning, groggy from an overnight ER trip with my oldest (diagnosis pneumonia) and groping for my coffee, I came across a poem piled atop a stack of  homework on the dining room table.  I read the poem.  Mid-poem, my husband came out of the kitchen and found me weeping all over my children’s schoolwork.

“I know!”  He said, wrapping his arms around me.

Then Lilly breezed through.  “Oh my God,” she said rolling her eyes.  Then she scooped up the cat, turned on her heel and left us howling and clutching each other.

My Lilly had been given an assignment in her new middle school English class – to write an “I Am From” poem.  If you follow the Swagger blog, you might have noticed that each of us has posted an "I am From" poem on our individual pages.  Months ago, on our second writing retreat, Gina prompted us to excavate our souls.  The creation of these poems was transformative in their content and in the bonding that took place when we shared them with each other.  An "I Am From" poem forces the writer to sculpt an image of themselves with words. 

And if this is where Lilly is from.  If this is who Lilly is, I think she is ready for whatever the world has in store.

I am from books

From ukuleles and small pink bows
I am from the brick house by the Swedish Bakery
That always smelled like cats
I am from the raspberry bush in the backyard
And the wall tree far away

I am from the Germans with the big brown eyes
From the dorky English teacher and the musical professor
I am from swearing and singing
And box collecting

I am from Lillabear and Boogaboo
And Love You Forever
I am from corn holing in Galena
And the bar at The Lodge

I am from Evanston and Italy
Porcupine meatballs and chocolate cake
From the frostbitten puppy
Forgotten outside
In the living room the shelves of photo albums
Full of family and friends from long ago
I am from Home.

Friday was Lilly's birthday.  We like to create “movie” birthday cards.  
This year, we used her own writing to wish her a happy birthday. 


  1. Oh, Juliet...
    How wonderful! This is the best. Thank you and Lily for sharing!
    Love, love, love!

  2. Love you, Gina - you brought this beautiful exercise into our lives and deepened the meaning of it when the universe extended it to Lilly :)

  3. Wow, like mother - like daughter, what a special gift to you in more ways than one.

    1. See, this is why I can't help but love you, Jon. Your praise is high indeed.

  4. Parents always think that we're walking around with our children's hearts in your hands, but actually it's them that go through life holding our hearts. And then they write beautiful poems like our Lilly did here and just smear your heart all over the lawn.....And you read it at your desk and weep but love it!

    I'm so lucky to have two such talented writers and beautiful people in my life!

    1. And we are beyond blessed to have you, my love.

  5. Wow! As they say, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. I love Lilly's poem, I love your reactions to it, I love Kevin's wonderful metaphor, & I'm so grateful you all shared these moments with us.

    1. Kathy, you teach me to be a better writer and a better person. Thank you for being a mentor and a friend!

  6. She thanks you, Ann!