I Am

By Geoff Dutton

I am from a farm town that slid into suburbia in time-lapse frames

as I pedaled my paper route after school with a big canvas bag

bringing news of interstate highways and fallout shelters and Sputnik

and that the computers were coming but nothing about the Internet

and remember seeing constellations and eclipses and shooting stars

and watching kittens being born and hearing insects everywhere.

Oh the crickets and cicadas and fireflies and tiny frogs chirping in trees!

I am from a tall Catalpa tree by our porch planted on her honeymoon by

an old lady we knew with its popcorn flowers and string bean pods that

I had to rake up after they dropped and before I mowed the grass sitting

on a sulky my father had kindly made for our Reo lawnmower and

I remember my grandmother’s gardens full of primroses and

sweetpeas and sunflowers and roses and petunias and zinnias.

I liked her morning glories best.

I am from New England and upstate New York houses with quiet

parlors dimmed by Coleus and Geraniums smelling of damp and

tobacco with oriental rugs and overstuffed furniture and flyspecked

wallpaper and radios bigger than me and I remember a boy next door

who I never knew practicing American Patrol on his trumpet over

and over even though the big war my father did not go to was over.

I was five when I saw soldiers suffering a bitter Korean winter on TV.

I am from pogrom-scattered Russian Jews transposed in New Jersey,

merchants morphing into American farmers who forsook the land

for education and lost touch with their traditions and I remember

my aunts and great aunts making blintzes and matzo ball soup

and gossiping about their relatives in Manhattan kitchens while

the menfolk smoked in the parlor and worried about the news.

When I moved to there for college only a few were left to visit.

I am from mineral collections and model trains on a ping pong table

and electronic projects and my chemistry lab where I made soap

and dyes and fizzy stuff and high explosives that should have

killed me but I was lucky and I remember turning my lab into

a darkroom when I got my first camera and father taught me

to develop and print photos like the one I took of a chipmunk

after waiting an hour for him to emerge from his burrow,

under my treehouse where I went to read comic books.

I am from preachers and teacher elders who could bring out the best

in people even if they did not know how they did it except by

listening to people and being helpful even though they did not

always get along with each other, especially with my grandfather

upstairs watching Cronkite and sitcoms and with his devoted wife

and ranting about juvenile delinquents and commies and liberals.

I remember his pride in the hundreds of books that lined his study

that I sold after he died but now in my study I write at his big desk.

And I am from a mother and father who earned little but burnished

the world with their generosity of spirit and activism and taught me

to value truth telling and learning and respect for all and made

me do my homework and feed the chickens and gather eggs and

I remember being sent to Sunday school at a church by myself

where I colored pictures of the Holy Family and drew one of them

flying in an airplane in the clouds with their pilot Pontius.

That was my first pun.


image: Aerial map of my home town made by O.H. Bailey in 1882. When I was born we lived in a historic house next to the church at the lower left and across Main Street from the Town Hall.

Geoffathisroom052014-e1487299558264Geoff Dutton:  I’m a writer of stories, articles and commentary who works as an anonymous writer and editor of technical documents and academic arcana. Few of them have been published, mostly for lack of trying. My route to storytelling is unlikely. For years I performed R&D in computer graphics, programming cartographic techniques and geospatial data models in academia architecture and planning firms. I’ve consulted for defense contractors, a museum, and hardware and software companies. In 2000 and 2001 I put out a weekly blast on trends in information technology for an IT research firm, probably accumulating my largest audience ever. Over the last five years I’ve authored more than 350 online stories, memoirs and articles, and one novel. Some recent and archived writings can be seen on my blog, Progressive Pilgrim Review.

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