Who Are You Really, Wanderer?

Although I freely admit to being a smartass most of the time, there are times I come across as one when I really don’t mean to be, like when I am asked “Where are you from?”.  This is not an easy question for me to answer.

I was born in South Miami, Florida.  That part is simple enough.  But since then, I have lived in at least fifteen (15) different towns and twenty (20) different houses or apartments.  I say at least because I’m sure I must be leaving one or two out.  I have never lived anywhere for more than six years, and that was in Hollywood, Maryland from the age of six (6) to twelve (12).  I no longer know anyone who lives there, at least not well enough to recognize them in a lineup.

“Where did you go to school?” is problematic as well.  I attended a high school that was only 10th through 12th grade but spent my 11th grade year as an exchange student in Germany, so I felt no great attachment to the people or the town.  I am an alumnus of six post-secondary institutions (Clemson, St. John’s River Community College, University of Central Florida, College of Charleston, Naval Postgraduate School and University of Southern Mississippi), four of which I have degrees from.  This is why, when faced with this question, I’ll often answer “Which time?”.

But to be fair, I haven’t really had it that bad.  My son, who is now fifteen (15) and in the 10th grade, is in his 7th town, 9th home and 11th school.  And we’re moving next summer.

A Story That Could Be True

If you were exchanged in the cradle and

your real mother died

without ever telling the story

then no one knows your name,

and somewhere in the world

your father is lost and needs you

but you are far away.

He can never find

how true you are, how ready.

When the great wind comes

and the robberies of the rain

you stand on the corner shivering.

The people who go by–

you wonder at their calm.

They miss the whisper that runs

any day in your mind,

“Who are you really, wanderer?”–

and the answer you have to give

no matter how dark and cold

the world around you is:

“Maybe I’m a king.”

William Stafford


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