Mapping out where I'm from- childhood

Reading through this week's reading assignments and viewing other Place Conscious blogs made me think about the places I have lived. I decided that I would describe a little about each place that I have lived because I really do feel that these places have shaped me into the person I am now. I wish I had pictures for some of these places, but unfortunately my family is not big into pictures. So words will have to do :)

Omaha, Columbus, and Milford

I was born in Omaha, Nebraska and lived all over eastern Nebraska and in a small Iowa town during the first two years of my life. After my parents divorced my mom and I moved back to her home town, Columbus, Nebraska. She asked her parents for help, but they lovingly told her she was on her own. They believed in tough love, and it worked. My mom found a modest apartment she could afford, landed a job waitressing at Pizza Hut, and invested in a sturdy bike that was equipped with a baby seat. This is how I got to and from daycare every day, on the back of a bike. My mom is one tough cookie and I respect her for forging her own path after my biological dad left. When I was three or four my mom married her high school sweetheart, my step-dad (who I refer to as my dad) who had just returned from the Army. We then moved to Milford, Nebraska and lived on campus at Southeast Community College so my dad could go to school. Soon after, my brother was born. I don't remember much about Milford, but I do remember that there were other families who lived on campus. We had a swing set in the backyard that all of the kids played on in the evenings while our dads either went to work or did homework. I remember that my parents went to the food pantry every now and then because we were dirt broke. It seems like these were some of the toughest years in my parents' lives, yet my dad talks about this place more than any other place we've ever lived.

When I entered Kindergarten we moved to Crete, Nebraska where my mom worked at Region V with mentally and developmentally disabled adults. My dad commuted to Lincoln to work at Appleton and my brother and I went to school at St. James Elementary, a small Catholic school. We lived in an old, Victorian style home that was a block from the city pool. The house was so old that on our deed there was no year listed; instead, where the year would be listed it simply said "old." The house was quite the "gem" when we moved in. Their was no electricity in the upstairs, the basement was unfinished, the kitchen and bathroom were in serious need of repair, and the dining room had bare wires sticking out in some places. Fortunately my dad is a handy man. He wired the upstairs (although he never got to my brother's room!), completley flipped the kitchen and bathroom, remodled my bedroom, started on my brother's room, and fixed up the dining room. It seemed like this house was in constant disarray, at one point my mom had no kitchen sink and she had to wash the dishes in the bathtub! I loved this house. It had a spiral staircase, french doors leading into the living room that housed an antique up-right piano, a gigantic yard, a clawfoot bathtub (before the rennovation), and my bedroom was the best: an attic-looking room equipped with two large built in bookcases that housed every single Babysitter's Club book available to man-kind and two small windows that I often sat in front of reading the night away. I would have loved to stay in Crete for my entire life. We ened up moving to Columbus the summer before I started 7th grade (years are fuzzy for me). My brother and I were devestated. The day I moved I was supposed to meet my best-friend, Kevin, to say good-bye. Kevin was so sad that he wrote me a letter and gave it to a mutual friend to give to me. I remember sitting in the backseat watching out the back window, tears running down my face hoping that Kevin would run down the block. My brother was only in 1st or 2nd grade but had a terrible time with the move. It actually ended up being a pretty traumatic event for him. The rest of elementary school was a rocky road...he was made fun of a lot and turned to fighting these hooligans which led him to be suspended quite frequently.

My family moved here to be closer to my grandparents (I suppose new jobs played a role in this move as well!). My dad accepted a job working at one of the many factories in town working as a supervisor and my mom found a job working at a place similar to Region V. Columbus was a large adjustment for us. We went from a town of 5,000 to a town of 20,000. Looking back on our move and our time in Columbus, I am beginning to realize that it was more of a rough transition for my brother and I than we probably realized at the time. Like I said earlier, he didn't fit in in this new place and thus turned to fighting to stick up for himself. I was no angel child either. I found a few friends, but got in more trouble than when we lived in Crete. I talked like crazy in my classes and drove my teachers nuts. I also had quite the attitude, this put me in the principal's office more times than my parents would have liked. 7th grade was also my first fist-fight and my first experience with alcohol. Luckily, by about my freshman/sophomore year of high school, I straightened up and turned out to be a pretty good kid. It's funny how much a place can affect or change a person. I'm sure when we first moved to Columbus, my parents probably wondered if they had made the right decision simply because of the drastic turns my brother and I took.


Aubrey said...

“It seems like these were some of the toughest years in my parents' lives, yet my dad talks about this place more than any other place we've ever lived.” How true – sometimes our most lasting memories are of the places and people we’ve had to learn to love, instead of the places and people we thought we loved at first sight! At least that’s how it’s been for me.

Thanks for sharing your reflections and insights; I’m looking forward to reading more!

Cathie English said...


My parents commuted to Columbus for about forty years. My dad worked at Behlen's and my mom worked at Dale Electronics (now Vishay). I always felt they were smart to stay in a very small town like Silver Creek, so that we could participate in just about anything. I have eleven siblings and we were all involved in athletics and music and art. I know my dad, in particular, did not ever want to live in Columbus. I'm sure it's an OK community, but I had cousins who lived there and I went to the high school once, and I didn't like it much! I do think places can shape us, for ill or good, but eventually, even if it's bad, those bad experiences probably teach us more. Thanks for sharing!

Pam Wolford said...

Your story reads like a good novel. I want to read on. You're actually a year older than our daughter so it's interesting to participate in a class with perspectives on "parents' choices". Our son and his new wife are moving back to McCook to start new jobs. I am intrigued that the same place he couldn't wait to leave seems like a good place to call home again. We feel blessed and we're sure proud of how our kids' rural upbringing has helped to make them wonderful adults. Pam

E.F.R. said...

I know we've talked about this before, but I think we were in Crete at the same time. It's a strange place, or perhaps it just seemed strange to me because I had moved there from Tacoma and couldn't quite adjust to the cultural shift. I'm looking forward to hearing more about your teaching, particularly because a small class environment allows so much more reflexivity than a larger one.

Susan Martens-Baker said...

Hi Danielle,

It's fun to see you representing yourself in the blog this way! I envy you your English class of two students! I had a few small classes during my time at Arlington, and they never really felt like classes are all but more like writing groups.

I loved your description of the "old" Victorian house in Crete. You must have really hated to leave it. It sounds beautiful-- like something out of a movie!

You make Ogallala sounds lovely! I didn't know that it was the "Cowboy Capital." :-) The street festival you describe also sounds great!

rbrooke1 said...


Thanks for this whole set of blog entries -- I'm new to this whole blogging thing, but yours gives me real hope--so a blogger can post info over time, that collectively shows more than any single entry can? Cool. I was drawn to the images of you in several macropolises in Nebraska (in census language, a micropolis is under 10,000, and a macropolis is over that--I forget where the cut off point is for becoming a city but I think it's 75,000 or so). Each of these (Columbus, Milford, Crete) is in a different bioregion officially in our state, and I wondered how that affected your sense of these places. I loved the rendering of family, home, and friends in the Crete years. Do you know why your parents had to move when they did? Was it part of some historic event (like the 1980s farm crisis that wiped out so many rural families the first years I was here in Nebraska)? Oh, and thanks for posting your students' I am from poems alongside your own this week. They know you are doing this, and have their permission, right? Can they see all of our stuff on your blog as well?


Danielle said...

Thanks for the comments...yeah, my students know their poems are on here :) They do have my blog address, too. I usually invite all of my older students to visit my blog :) They were excited to see that I put their poems on my blog...

My parents actually moved to Columbus to be closer to family. My grandfather had just recently died and my grandmother was alone and trying to take care of her mentally handicapped daughter. I think my dad felt obligated to move back and take care of her. I did appreciate this part of Columbus: being close to family. We were around my grandparents all of the time and I wouldn't trade that for anything (even my built-in bookshelves in my old bedroom).

Mary said...

Hi Danielle,

I love your “I love section” about living in Ogallala—it’s a prose poem! Your images are beautiful and clearly capture your joy in your new place. When moving is difficult for a lot of people, it is so cool to see images of the delights of your new place. I also love what you loved about your Crete house—it sounds magical! Your experiences with your favorite reading spot and reading night and day remind me of my own childhood—maybe a big reason why we’re English teachers?? ☺ I, like you, moved several times as a child and look back and see the difficulty in those moves. But perhaps that’s why we delight in new places?? . I’m often fascinated with the ways seemingly unrelated pieces of our life puzzle fit together—in ways we often hadn’t imagined.

I love that you’re doing “I am From” poems already with your English 12 students! I’m teaching Creative Writing I & II again this year (after doing entirely AP Lit last year), and I’m so excited to try “I am From” poems with my students later this year. What a treat to read some of your students’ writing.

Thanks for a great introduction to your places.