This is how my memoir manuscript begins:
I come from black dirt.
I come from tee totaling Presbyterians, fallen Catholics, and a small town where nothing is taller than the church steeples.
I come from the river and all the muck that lies at the bottom of it.I come from snow-white cranes on water and the hidden places in the woods that shelter a mushroom so delectable it melts your taste buds like a hot skillet melts butter.I come from red-winged blackbirds, and the shock of a flash of scarlet as they flutter up from a ditch beside the road.I come from fields and bare feet watching out for thistles and cow shit.I come from people who mind their own business and yours, from whispers, party lines and pointing fingers.
I come from weather; hail of all sizes, lightning bolts big enough to rip the sky wide open, tornadoes that will turn your town into a pile of sticks, and summer heat that just might last forever.I come from the relief of a sigh made visible by the cold on a morning when a blizzard blots out the road and school is cancelled. I come from rain that entire counties pray for day and night.I come from corn, and more corn–fields you can hide in where the shiny leaves are sharp enough to slash your arms; corn on the cob on a butter-soaked paper plate at a barbecue; corn in the feed trough stuck to the shiny wet-black nose of a steer that’s next summer’s steak.
I come from pitchers of peonies on old oak tables, and a girlhood of hats and gloves.I come from children should be seen and not heard, and don’t do as I do, do as I say.I come from mind your manners, and you know that girl was asking for it.I come from the deer at the side of the road that bolts when your headlights blind him, and the next thing you know his antlers are embedded in your grill, and the rosary hanging from your rearview mirror won’t stop swaying.
I come from ice-slick bridges, backseats, and beer.I come from gravel roads, and highways coal-colored even under the full moon.I come from red barns and hay and sweat that equals money.I come from mom and pop businesses on a narrow-minded main street where you can see the church steps from the door of every tavern.I come from the specter of hell and the promise of eternal salvation.I come from litanies of saints and hog prices.
I come from the place where a mistake can follow you as close as your shadow and be forever spoken of in the same breath as your name.