I Am Rich

Where I come from. That’s been a pretty common theme around this place. As I’ve grown over the years, those of you who have been reading have seen me go from wide-eyed small town girl planted in the middle of the state’s largest university with all kinds of dreams floating through my head, to a domesticated married lady in my mid-twenties, looking forward to the future. And so, while you’ve heard most of that, today’s McLinky at Real Housewives of Oklahoma (you read that right) is “Where I Come From.” I figure there’s more left to say.

It took me leaving my hometown to realize just exactly where I belong. I can remember sitting in the middle of a cultural studies course at the University of Oklahoma and hearing someone trashing the “small” town they were from. First of all, they hailed from a town with 20k+ residents. Sugarpie, you can get back to me when you live within a 15-mile radius of where your family has been settled for the past 100 years, with a population of no more than 15, between the signs, counting the barn cats.

No, really.

Hearing that and so many other things, having new experiences, and knowing that Taco Bell was open at 2AM if I really needed them — all those things opened my eyes. I love my home.

My home is Pernell, Oklahoma. It’s not Elmore City, where I was sent to school when we consolidated in 1992. No, my home is that strip of highway in the middle of the country. Twenty miles west of Pauls Valley, thirty-five east of Duncan, eight north of Ratliff City, and an hour (give or take) south of Norman.

If it was just the town that I was tied to, it wouldn’t be home to me. What makes it my home are the people and the memories tied to the place. I am tethered there. Somewhere atop that hill Nannie and Pappy’s house sits on, my heart is buried deep in the hard clay.

It took growing a little bit older to find out all these things about myself. If anything, I was the child with the wildest dreams about getting away, making something of myself, and never coming back to that smalltown. Now, I’d do anything to get back there and stay.

Because what I come from is a deep sense of family.
A respect for the land.
A love of springtime and gardens.
A need for the quiet and peace you can only find in the country.
A desire for the Word.
A godly heritage.

Men who believed in raising and standing by their family.
Who supported their families in plenty and in want.
Who toiled and dug and reached down into the earth until it produced.
Who were funny as all get out.
Who had strong exteriors, but the most tender of hearts.
Who believed in serving the Lord.

Women that would walk miles to get what their family needed.
Who made food stretch and feed as many mouths as would crowd around the table.
Who spoke truth.
Who raised a passel of children and shared with them all the love of Jesus.
Who worked a garden of red clay and made it produce the sweetest fruits.
Who loved with every breath they had in them.

Where I come from is a clay hill surrounded by good bottom land. What I come from is a line of men and women who lived fully, gave everything, and loved without measure.

I could not ask for more. Because of them, I know that I can live a full life right where I am. Wherever that is.

Good On Paper

That’s me.

As far as I know, I was never popular. I never won any beauty pageants and the one I came in first runner-up at was a fluke because I wasn’t there. At the time my accomplishments were great enough (for a 16-year-old) that I nearly won the whole thing. On paper.

The smart one. The bookworm. The wallflower. Sometime in either late elementary school or early junior high I figured out the labels that best fit me and embraced them. I was clumsy and would never be athletic. I was chubby and awkward and would never be a cheerleader. Never be homecoming queen.

Words that came from my mouth were never eloquent. I stumbled and stuck my foot in my mouth all the time. Give me a piece of paper to write on though and I could spin you a yarn. Write you a poem. Plot out a letter to make you change your mind. Make you believe.

I was a dreamer and a thinker. Content to read my books and revel in my hopes and wishes for the future. Always watching, I can be truthful about it now — I never felt like I was a “part” of anything. Ever. In my entire life before college, I never felt like I fit in. It’s not something that I lament nowadays. Looking around me, I see some of the things that I was spared. One thing that does stick with me though is that I never felt like I was anyone’s best friend. Throughout my life I have gone through a handful of what I believed to be bosom friends (there I go with the Anne-speak again), but I never felt (or knew) that there was anyone who would choose me over everyone else. As a child I chalked it up to me being different from everyone else.

It was as if I had figured out my place in the world (for the time being) and I was going to sit quietly and wait my turn.

I’m not sure what I expected. When “my time came,” what was it going to look like? My senior year I was voted “Most Likely to Succeed.” I would like to know what my classmates thought success was back then. To be honest, I can’t remember too much about what my view of success was.

What I knew, from a very young age, was what I was good at. If there was nothing else in this world that I could do, this would sustain me.

You see, I could write.

In my mind, there was very little hope for me outside the pages of a book. I can remember sitting at a slumber party in middle school, watching Never Been Kissed and being petrified. Luckily in my school experience, I had never been really terrorized. Never had an entire cafeteria full of kids shouting a cruel name my direction. But seeing that character onscreen…all I could see was me.

And all I could think was, I have to stop this from happening.

Because, the frump thing? Totally plausible. Spouting off ridiculous grammar rules and thinking they’re impressive? Oh yeah. And the whole, I never had a boyfriend until I was 21-years-old, much less had I been kissed – thing? Ding ding ding!

This entire post is some kind of crazy tangent, but I promise you there was a reason I started it and I’ll get there somehow. Just circling the barn a few times.

Good on paper. I could ace any research paper or essay exam you handed me. Write my way out of a rabbit hole. Draw up a resume to impress the best. And I could cover letter my way right into your heart. Somewhere along the way, I let the “me” on paper define who I was. It wasn’t until I reached a point in my life where my accomplishments didn’t impress anyone outside of my little town that I was able to let go and just be.

There were moments in college when I thought that big university was going to swallow me whole. There wouldn’t be anything to it. I could disappear into that mess. But I didn’t. When I started out, I had gone the practical route. I was going to be a teacher. After a few semesters I realized, however capable and qualified I was to be an educator, that was not my passion. I changed my major and took my first writing class. And in that class I wrote a monologue about a little girl, a whole lot like me. It wasn’t until I was up in front of that class, giving that monologue, that I realized she was me. That voice in the story was the same one from my mouth. When her voice cracked, so did mine. When her sorrow became apparent to the audience it was because it was authentic and personal. And mine.

I was always good on paper. It’s where I found myself. And I’ve never been the same.