Because of Cora via Ann Voskamp

Where I’m From

I was intrigued when I read about Cora over at Hidden Riches from Secret Places. I loved learning about her using a structure that Ann Voskamp over at A Holy Experience posted this past week. Cora said she re-posted her version after Ann Voskamp posted hers. Both posts are based on an adaptation by Levi Romero of a poem entitled Where I’m From by George Ella Lyon. Using the same adaptation, I am writing mine. I hope it helps you know me better.

I am from farmers and a man who always wanted to farm, but war, death and circumstances got in his way.
Instead I am from bread baskets, newspapers and a mail truck parked in the driveway of my childhood home.
I am from the sweltering, freezing attic bedroom I shared with my younger sister where I read her the Bible every morning and quizzed her every evening.
I am from dusting venetian blinds, running newspapers every Sunday morning and fish sticks every Friday (not because I was Catholic, but because my Dad loved them).
I am from toasting marshmallows over a campfire in the woods and swimming in the creek every day all summer long.
I am from birch trees and apple trees whose tent caterpillars needed burned out every summer and a catalpa tree whose long dark pods are forever imprinted in my memory.
I am from sand-tart cookies, hog maw, schnitz un gnepp, saurkraut and pork, but no speaking German, “We are Americans!”
I am from Elsie Edna and James Roy; Anna Louise and Samuel Howell. Farmers all.
I am also from hard times and strong women who lost their men early and raised their children alone in the midst of incredible odds. My father is the middle son below.

I am from a grandmother who read to me every night before tucking me into bed and said, “Good night, Itty Bit.”
I am from listening to 45 rpm records with my aunt who was 15 years older than I and from eating warm tomatoes and corn right in the middle of sunny fields.
I am from riding on the necks of mother sows holding onto their ears after my grandmother called them loudly for their “slop”.
I am from hillbilly music and Christmas carols sung around my grandmother’s piano. I am from firecrackers every fourth of July on the sidewalk.
I am from Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Dutch and German stoicism, determination and pride.
I am from Elsie Edna who had just had her 15th child and her husband died of blood poisoning from a rusty corn husker before the age of antibiotics. He worked as a hired hand for his brother and rented a house from the same.
With her husband dead, Elsie Edna and her children were no good to the brother-in-law so he told them to leave.
My grandmother took the bus into town, rented a house there and raised her children by herself by baking, cleaning and some wages from her oldest sons earned until…
the sons went off to war. (This next picture is not of my grandmother. I took it off, but it is what she probably looked like on any given day.)

My last memory of my grandmother (then in her 80’s) is her sitting at her kitchen table covered with a dozen pies (Having baked for 15 children, hired hands and passers-by all her life would say, “Who can make just one pie?”) to give to anyone who would visit that day. With 72 grandchildren someone would surely come to visit.

I come from the two strongest women I will ever know. I have family photos in albums, stories typed and bound into an archival book and precious memories stored in the synapses of my brain because this is where I am from and I don’t ever want to forget it. God bless you, Elsie and Anna!

Thanks for reading,



9 comments on “Because of Cora via Ann Voskamp

  1. Dawn, this was just so precious to read! For me, there is nothing better than to hear the “stories” of other people’s lives. My mom died early in my life, and I never got to hear her stories. And my Dad didn’t share much. There is so much I’d like to know now. Your story touched a tender spot in my heart as I read of the difficulties and the hardships life brought back then. If I were to call them anything, I would call your family “overcomers.” Now I know some of the answers to the why’s I ask about you —- why you are so strong, a pusher, an encourager, an uplifter. Why people mean a lot to you, why your family loves you, and why you are such a wonderful caregiver.
    Your story also tells me why people today “fall apart” at the least of troubles. Today, we don’t “overcome.” We take pills, see therapists, expect the government to give us homes, incomes, food, etc.

    I’ve known you for a while now, Dawn, but now I KNOW you in a deeper more wonderful way. Thank you for doing this. I wish everyone would!!!!

    • Dear Cora,

      I really wanted to do this after I read yours. It really did a lot for me. It made me think about my family history in a totally different way and in the process I realized how central my grandmothers were in the way things evolved. Had they been lesser people, we might have fallen apart and been scattered all over the place. This realization was profound and i am grateful to have had the opportunity to do it. Thanks, Cora!


  2. Dear Dawn, I have read Cora’s and Ann’s and now yours. I have so enjoyed them all and plan to do one myself. Love the old photos and that you are from “strong women” but I think my favourite is that while your family honoured their German heritage they spoke English “because we are American”. I think that is so important when immigrating to a new country.
    I still smile every time you refer to your grandmother’s name for you . . . Itty Bit.
    Thank you for sharing who you are and who you are from with us. You are amazing!!

    • My dear genealogist friend,

      This one was for you especially since you are so fascinated in how we are all linked! I love to go back and read your posts about your mother and her valiant life. Thanks for reading so thorooughly to catch my childhood nickname. It still makes me smile.

      God night,

  3. Dawn, I have read yours and Cora’s and will be off to read Ann’s… so much fun to walk back in history with you all… it has been a few years indeed and we have all been so blessed to have come upon our Saviour and even to have found each other. Together we are wrapped in His abiding Love!
    love you and your precious name
    Itty Bit!

  4. Dear Susan,

    This is a fun adventure. I’ll check for yours in the future. I expect that you will follow the rubrick in a very unique way so I look forward to reading it. You’re fairly unconventional anyway so this unconventional format may suit you very well. We shall see, right? I hope!

    Itty Bit

  5. I absolutely loved reading this Dawn. I have been on and off the computer lately and haven’t even read Ann’s blog in awhile. I am a bit backed up in reading my blogging favorites. But I am so glad to be here today. Now I know the heritage of strength you have and I am not surprised at all that God is using you to share your stories and strengthen others through them.

    • Sweet Danelle,

      I am thankful that a young woman found this interesting–you are the grandmother of tomorrow. What a firm foundation your sons can build their own houses upon because of your strength. If so lead, would you write your own “Where I’m From” someday? I would love to read it.

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