Thursday, November 19, 2009

Where are you from?

Today someone asked me the simple question, "Where are you from?" Every time someone asks me that question I get confused and I don't know how to answer. So the questioner went deeper, "Where were you born?" "Wisconsin." "Well, where did you grow up." "Um, define grow up..."

Baby Katie with parents (in Wisconsin?)

No, I'm not a military kid, I'm a professor's kid. We moved as my dad changed jobs. The confusing question for me is where did I grow up. I spent ages 4-14 in Alaska, but 14-21 in Kentucky. So where did I grow up?

My family with our dog, Traveler, in Alaska

Alaska in many ways feels like home. My formative years were there. I got my first driver's permit there and it's just cooler (literally and figuratively) to be from Alaska than from Kentucky. It took me two years in Kentucky to stop saying I was from Alaska, but I still felt torn. Now, it generally depends on the occasion whether I say I have ties to Alaska, but I rarely say I'm "from" there.

Family picture in Kentucky

Spending only seven years in Kentucky, however, doesn't make me feel justified in saying I'm from there either. I usually go with the line "my parents are in Kentucky," when asked why I'm heading there. Being from there leads to a conversation about why I don't have a drawl or about basketball (about which I know almost nothing...)

At the St. Paul Winter Carnival in 2007. It was about -30F.

Now, thankfully, I can use the line, I'm from Minnesota. It's a line which is, at least temporarily true. (This also leads to the realization that I have spent 17 years of my life at or above 43 degrees North latitude, so from now on that's the line I'm using :) )

I've never felt like I've been without a homebase, because my parents have always worked hard to make where ever we lived be home. It's only when I get asked "where are you from?" that I get flummoxed. I've been yearning for Alaska today because my hometown 'hood, as it were, made the NYTimes travel section. I'll write about that tomorrow, but it brought up some intense homesickness and longing for home. While I know that Alaska isn't my home anymore, seeing the pictures and hearing the stories made me remember a time when it was. And that makes me smile.


Reid said...


You forgot to mention that by Alaska, you mean Wasilla, Alaska, a.k.a. Sarah Palin-ville!

Simon said...

You were born in Wisconsin?! I'm not sure I knew that.

Also, not to disagree with Reid, but every time I see Sarah Palin's name it ruins the next twenty minutes of my day, so thank you for not mentioning her. Bllllegh.

Katie said...

Reid - In some ways I do, but in some ways I don't...see my most recent post for more. I guess that for the last year I was saying I was from Wasilla and my parents were saying they were from Palmer. If I really had to get down to the fine details I would probably say I was from the Mat-Su Valley. Officially we lived outside city limits...

Simon - You probably didn't. It's something I prefer to hide while living in MN! I know that hearing about She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named ruins 20 minutes of your day, so she's not mentioned in today's post either. You're welcome.