Wednesday, 14 March 2012

I Am From . . .

I have been challenged by some dear cyber-friends to respond to their "I Am From" posts with one of my own.  Such a wonderful trip down memory lane and so surprised at some of the memories that surfaced.

I am from Melmac dishes and mismatched cutlery for everyday use, from rotary egg-beaters and meat-grinders and CorningWare coffee percolators.  I am from fancy China and silverware stored in the red velvet lined chest, gracing the dining room table at Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Sister Kari's 6th birthday
I am from window seats. From banisters and French doors and roll-top desks with claw feet and pigeonholes.  From a heritage home with wide front porch, stone steps and roll-up awnings.  From screen doors and clotheslines and bunk beds and cut-glass doorknobs filled with rainbows.  From rooms upstairs where the boarders lived and sandy basement that gave us the creeps.

Built in 1922 this is my childhood home as it looks today.  My parents were the last owners of the home before it was sold and turned into a funeral home . . . Clayton Funeral Directors, 582 Front Street, Quesnel, BC

I am from hollyhocks and cosmos and tulips that Mama dearly loved. 
Cosmos (photo source)
 From bamboo planted in cement ring to curtail its spread and cottonwood trees that dropped their fluffy white clouds all over the yard.  From the crab-apple tree that rained silky petals and then gave fruit for Mama's prized jelly.  From picking beans and dandelions and lilacs that grew down the lane.

I am from prayers at each meal and Sunday afternoon naps and Wednesday night prayer meeting. From sword drills and "Jesus Loves Me" and missionary stories of Sadhu Sundar Singh and Pandita Ramabai.  From DVBS and Sunday school picnics and Miss Riley and her handkerchief dollies in church.

I am from five children born to Ray Wallace and Agnes Grace in just four and a half years.  From big sister Kari Jane, younger brother Dallas Birk and the babies, twins Martha Lorraine and Mark Leroy.  I am from Old Spice and crew cuts.  From aprons and spaces between the front teeth.  I am from hand-me-down dresses and Singer sewing machines and scratching out the alphabet on each other's back with Kari at bedtime.  From soft-serve ice cream and gallon jugs of A&W root beer and the adult-sized three wheeler bike. From the line of kids marching behind Dad as he mowed the lawn.  

Ray Wallace and Agnes Grace, 3 April 1954
My Mama, Agnes Grace, with her brood.  I am on the left with the big cheesy smile.
I am from things my Mama said, like "fiddlesticks" and "horse feathers" and "j'entre dans le salle de classe" - the only French she remembered.  From father's "I'll give you something to cry about" and "this hurts me more than it does you".  From piano lessons taught by Dad's cousin Della and playing his favourite "Somewhere My Love".

I am from Christmas trees set up December 18th on Mama's birthday, from meticulously hung tinsel and a foil-wrapped cardboard star.  From breakfast before presents and old woollen work socks with Japanese oranges and nuts and hard candy.

I am from Quesnel, British Columbia and from two full blooded Norwegian grandfathers that I never met.  From grandmother's, Irma and Blanche that raised families mostly on their own.  From Anabaptist ancestors fleeing religious persecution in Switzerland and Germany, making their way to America in its infancy.  From school teachers, preachers, inventors and entrepreneurs, from farmers and loggers and WW2 veterans.  From family historians and writers and poets.  I am also from broken dreams, broken vows, broken homes.

 Fraternal grandfather Alfred Martinis 
Maternal grandfather, Lawrence Anton

Maternal grandmother Blanche
Fraternal grandmother Irma Irene

I am from city kids and country cousins spending summer vacation on Grandma Bjorklund's farm.  From riding the hay wagon, gathering blueberries in old gallon paint cans, and midnight runs to the outhouse.  From priming the pump and sulphur smelling water and chickens and cows and a horse named Prince.  From wringer washing machine and clamouring over who got to put the curlers in Grandma's hair.

Cousins Ron and Janet on the horse named Prince

I am from books and reading late into the night.  From weekly trips to the library with my sister for the unread Nancy Drew or Trixie Beldon titles. From Encyclopedia Britannica and Mario Lanza and Johnny Cash.  From playing Mousetrap and jacks and pick-up sticks.

I am from "toad in the hole", homemade bread and skim milk powder.  From "slumgullion" and "hardtack" and apple crisp, banana bread and chocolaty French cake.  From scalloped potatoes and raspberry jam and canned peaches.

I am from Martha Freelove, my great grandmother who with her husband and children left Arkansas for Canada in a covered wagon in 1916.  Who along the way went blind at the age of 35 and never saw the new country she was immigrating to, never saw her grandchildren or great grandchildren.
Great Grandmother Martha Freelove, centre circa 
1882, Arkansas.  I have the original of this photo.
Martha Freelove, Vancouver, BC 1960's

I am from photos old and letters kept and every birthday card from Great Aunt Nettie stashed away in my treasure box. From stick figure drawings saved by my Mama,  from newspaper clippings and certificates and memories triggered by sights and sounds and smells.

My great, great, great grandparents, Freelove and David Benjamin 
Grandmother Irma Irene, an accomplished horsewoman.
Great grandparents Wyatt Woodruff
and Laura Dorelia.

I am from "Amazing Grace" and whispered prayers and "This Little Light of Mine".  From "How Great Thou Art" and the Shepherd's psalm and John 3:16.  I am from He who forgives, heals and redeems, who crowns me with loving kindness and tender mercies and who has good plans for my life . . . plans for a future and a hope.

I am, Andrea Dawn.

If you would like to write your own "I Am From" story, you can find a template here.  It is a very helpful tool to get you started.  


  1. This is gorgeous, Andrea. You brought tears to my eyes more than once in this one post. I hope you don't mind if I share the link with friends.


    1. Thanks, Stacy . . . feel free to share it.

  2. Just beautiful dear sister. What a gift to our family and an encouragement to others to share their stories.

    1. Thanks, Kari . . . it was an amazing experience doing this. Using the template really helped to "prime the pump" and then it was hard to be selective as more and more memories surfaced. I realize I forgot to put pictures of Dad's logging truck in so I may see if I can edit it once more.

  3. All I can say is, "WOW!!!" It is just amazing how something like this just automatically draws someone into your heart ---- I feel like I know you so
    personally, along with your family and your past. It has made me want to go back and redo mine, as it brought up so many, many other memories of my past. Thank you so much for doing this, for sharing the pictures, and most of all, for sharing your heart!!!!

    1. Yours was the first one I ever read, Cora, and all I can say is thank you. This has been such a beautiful experience. As you commented on Dawn's post, I wish everyone would do this.

  4. Wow as well. Beautifully done. Wow, wow and wow. Well done Andrea. What a treasure. Are you able to print and keep your post just as it is. So beautiful. Incredible. Blessed having the opportunity to read. Interesting that your great grandfather was Wyatt Woodruff. Interesting.

  5. my dear friend... I am crying for all this beauty... all the fullness of your life~ from broken dreams to He who crowns with loving kindness~ love all this Andrea Dawn... so honoured to call you friend and sister !

    1. Thanks, Susan . . . are you going to do one, too? I can already imagine the astounding beauty of words and pictures you would use.

  6. Ah, Andrea Dawn,

    I forgot the

    wringer washing machine, Old Spice, crew cuts, malmac plates and a THOUSAND other things. I feel like Cora. I wish I could write mine again. Reading this brough up so many "things". I really really love this. I hope many will click on the link and do their own. It is therapeutic for the one doing it and such an honor for those reading it to be able to peer inside another. At some points the experiences were so like mine that you could have been writing about me.

    I LOVE that house. How fabulous, but my favorite pictures were of Martha Freelove, Irma Irene on the horse and Blanche. Were they not the best? I could go on and on.

    Thank you for this. I think we all ought to do it again with other memories, perhaps at this time next year?
    Love you,

    1. Thank you, Dawn . . . I have so much more I could have put in, too. I certainly hit the most vivid memories but would love to do it again some time. Like you said, it was very therapeutic and the responses to it have been so sweet, so moving.

  7. Oh Andrea, this is so wonderful. I've read or two of these and thought of doing one, but never have. Such emotion welled up in my heart as I read your poetic words, full of the beauty and anguish of life. And then, my breath caught as I recognized someone special in one of the photos. I don't think I've ever seen the one of the 4 Orrs and the Olsons at the farm.

    That farm really meant a lot to you cousins, didn't it?

    Every time we drive through Quesnel, Tim points out the house where you lived. Childhood memories are sweet and last long.

    Do you have a link to the template?

    1. Thanks Lorrie, I was hoping you would make it over here for this. The farm was a truly special place and holds so many more memories than mentioned here. There is a link to the template at the very bottom of my post. The pink highlighted word "here" is a hyperlink. I sure hope you do it.

  8. Andrea, I should have known. I am from Anabaptist ancestors who came from Bern(e) Switzerland and settled in Sonnenberg, Ohio. It was no coincidence, do you think, that we felt such a connection, from the start?


Thanks for stopping by . . . appreciate your comments.