“Everyone is from somewhere”

“Where are you from?”  is perhaps the most commonly asked question posed when we meet a stranger after “What’s your name?” It’s usually a way of generating safe conversation in which we seek to find common ground. Everyone is from “somewhere” right?

When someone asks me where I am from, I have a tough time responding. Sure, I’m from somewhere. However, the person that asked this question doesn’t really want to hear my life story as I struggle to come up with a good answer. My parents, during my youth, farmed for various other larger farmers as they attempted to become established farmers for their “living”.  They continually sought better opportunities so that they could eventually farm for themselves (finally happening in 1983 when I was 18 years old).  This meant that we moved from farm to farm, town to town fairly frequently.

Where am I from?

I could say I’m from the city of Fayetteville (pop. 204,759), NC where I was born and lived for a whopping three weeks before my father exited the Army…

I could say I’m from the tiny village of Fairview (pop. 522), IL where I lived for 3 years as a toddler…

I could say I’m from the city of Aledo (pop. 3,640), IL. where I live for two different 4-year stints… One during my early school years and one that concluded when I graduated from Aledo High School as a proud Green Dragon.

I could say I’m from the village of Victoria (pop. 316), IL where we lived in grade school and junior high, both north side of town and southwest of the town.

I could say I’m from the village of Avon (pop. 799), Il where my parents currently reside on the farm... except that I only lived there during the summers when I was not in college.

I could say I’m from the town of ab-Normal (pop. 52,497) where I went to Illinois State University.

I could say I’m from the city of Mt. Carroll (pop. 1,717), city of Quincy (pop. 40,633), city of St. Charles (pop. 32,974), or village of Kaneville (pop. 484)… places that I’ve lived during my Farm Bureau work career.

Or I could say I’m from the village of Lemont (pop. 16,000) which is where I currently reside.

It’s always so confusing…where am I from?

Even figuring out if a municipality is a village, town, or city is confusing in this state. Illinois has 980 villages, 300 cities, and 19 towns. Why so few towns? The Illinois constitution of 1870 (and continued with the constitution of 1970) eliminated the legislative ability to create new towns.  Now, only cities and villages are incorporated through the Illinois Municipal Code process (which, by the way, it seems sad that no new towns can be created).  The minimum population to create a city is 2,500.  I must say that my time spent in the areas of Mt. Carroll and Aledo did not much resemble my view of a “city”.

Moving around so much of my life, it amazes me that some people have lived all of their life in the same place…born, raised, worked, retired. All of their life, they have had many of the same friends and neighbors to hang with, the same fish out of a pond to catch, the same trees to climb, the same woods to explore, the same roads to travel, the same nooks and crannies in their basement or attic to experience…the same, same, same.

During my youth life, I did not eagerly look forward to moving every few years…changing schools, new churches, making new friends, joining new teams and clubs. However, looking back, the moving gave me the opportunity to meet new people and experience new social environments. Bouncing around as a kid from home to home always provided new and exciting places to explore, experience, and creating so many memories. I will always remember the attic of the house north of Victoria; the barns from Aledo; the tree house we built in Avon; the strip mine fishing pond south of Victoria; various creeks, woods, and pastures nearly everywhere; a scattering of farm fields, fence lines built and removed, and a host of friends and neighbors throughout Western Illinois.

They say that “home is where the heart is”. I guess, then, I should say….I’m from the FARM.