A few weeks ago, Austin came downstairs and wanted my help editing a poem he wrote. “It’s for school,” he said. Their class had read the poem “Where I’m From” by George Ella Lyon and he was supposed to write his story – the story of his life – in a similar style.
The kids were all working on a shared document, so we could see what his classmates had written. As you may imagine, there was a lot of discussion of favorite sports and playing with siblings and other fourth grade interests. On the first line, Austin had written a bit about being from “mom and dad,” but he wasn’t really sure if it was clear whether he was talking about his dad Shawn or about Chris. We talked about it for a while, and I told him that in this poem, it seemed like everything didn’t have to be perfectly laid out. “It’s like life,” I said, “usually we don’t know everything about everyone. We slowly get to know other people. This poem isn’t your whole story, of course, and your teacher knows that. It’s just a glimpse of who you are.”
Austin was quiet, as he often is when he is thinking. He added a few details, and then we workshopped the piece for a long time. Ultimately he changed very little, though he did alter the first line and add some more details. “I like this,” he said, when he was finished. I did too.
This is what he wrote:
I am from mom and 2 dads,
From playing with Claire and Tommy.
From DC and the dark space in my closet.
My dad drifting off the family tree to the great beyond.
I am from candy and pizza.
I am from baseball and basketball,
I am from love and kindness.
I am from the middle of the children.
I am 9,
I am from Marjorie and Shawn and Chris.
I am from art and school,
I am from the big cherry tree I like to climb.
I am from memories,
from friends and family.
From being Austin.