Where are you from?

By J.C.Coon

Every time someone asks me “Where are you from?” I have to stop and think, where am I from? Do you mean, where was I born? Where was I raised?   Where did I raise my children? Where is my residence? What is my heritage?

The old joke is; Little son comes up to dad and says “Daddy where am I from?” Dad, with great discomfort, goes into the story about the birds and the bees and after all is said and done, his son says “Oh, my friend said he was from Chicago.”   Agggghhhh!!

I sometimes feel like I walk around with one of those red arrows pointing to the top of my head saying ”She’s not from around here.”   How long do you have to be here, to be ‘from’ here?   I was sitting at the tire store in Purcellville (at least I don’t call it Per-cell-ville, I know better than that) waiting for a new tire and in casual conversation asked the person next to me, “Are you from here?” the reply was “Oh no, we moved into to town from Lincoln 10 years ago”


Where am I from?

Do I claim the state I was born in? (California) The one my parents were raised in, and for the past 84 years Mom claims she is from, but has not lived there for the past 64 years.

Do I claim the last house my parents lived in for 30 years (Great Falls) as where I am from?   Or all the other houses along the way? (Alaska, Cambodia, Costa Rica, Falls Church)

Do I claim the town I raised my girls in for over 30 years (Herndon) as where I am from?

Do you mean where I live now? (Up on the ridge, where two states and three counties meet) Now that’s a story for another day.

Do you mean what is my gene pool make up? Who were my ancestors? How far removed am I from my country of origin?

Have you ever done one of those genealogy charts of your family tree? 1 (me) = 2 x 4 x 16 x 32 x 64 etc., etc., etc. (That’s a lot of ‘froms’.)

Maybe, I might literally be ‘from’ here.   In one of my genealogy quests I found that a relative, a McPherson, in late 1700’s married a Hibbs, (like the bridge). We found his tombstone in an old cemetery near Unison.   Does that count maybe, as a, ‘welcome back’?

Do I long too much to be where I am from, and forget to enjoy where I am?   Mom (who moved 13 times before she was 20) has many sayings like, “Home is where you hang your hat” and “Grow where you are planted”.   So, really, how important is it to know “Where am I from?”

I am here, now.

Enjoy me, work with me, play with me, learn with me, and grow with me, now.

Because, some day, I know not when, I will be called to go back to where I was ‘from’.


  1. Rick Brindle says:


  2. ^ I agree with Rick. I connected with your article on several levels, J.C. Thanks!

  3. Laura Bohall says:

    love this-well written!

  4. Denise Enger says:

    Wonderful! I cannot wait to send this to my mom – she is a San Franciscan that married a career Army man, hence a life full of moves and children born in different places. So many times over the years she has expressed the same uncertainty about how to answer the “Where are you from?” question in a simple way – she will be tickled so see how beautifully you have addressed the issue!

  5. Patrick Donohue says:

    Great read. And Part II could be “It’s not where you come from, it’s where you end up.”

  6. Dennis G says:

    I am a son of god and being such I am from everywhere. This was a great read and lots of love and thought went into it. Love to read more of your work.

    Bless you and yours

  7. Bville-Bud says:

    I really liked your essay, great job! Here are my thoughts on the “where are you from” saying, let’s see if you agree. I think people who are not from Clarke get agitated when asked if they are from here. Maybe it is because there is so much transition outside of our county that it is not often asked elsewhere. My belief is that people who ask where you are from aren’t being rude, they are usually asking for one of two reasons.

    1. To understand your point of view. With respect, if you never lived in a Clarke County full of dirt roads, and with about three stoplights in the county, you will not understand how I feel about growth; if you graduated from an un-air-conditioned high school on Swann Avenue with your sweat soaked shirt sticking to your wooden chair, we share a common sweaty bond, and may have similar feelings on issues based on those experiences.

    2. To try to make a connection. If you are “from Clarke” and I don’t know you (unlikely) I would most likely know your father, mother, sibling, kids, etc. and maybe we have something in common, or could share a story about a friend or place that is now only a memory.

    We live in the world’s best place, not perfect of course, but best. When someone asks “where are you from” you can say “I have lived all over, but Lord willing, I’m never leaving here”. That will put a smile on the face of whoever asked, and is a great way to start making memories with new friends.

  8. Tony Parrott says:

    I am an American by the grace of GOD and in Clarke County by choice; good people and good friends.
    Wouldn’t have it any other way.

  9. Bulgan Tsogt says:

    Loved the article. really enjoyed reading it.

  10. When people asked me the same question, I just told them “I’m from China.” I haven’t thought about that much. Maybe, I haven’t been so many places as you even I’m from a far country. It is a wonderful article. It makes me want to write something to publish. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Jeane Cromer says:

    Where are you from? I am from the land where we don’t end our sentences in prepositions.

    • Folks, Right Winger is right. It doesn’t sound like Jeane and if it is, I don’t believe she meant to appear rude. I thought she was being humorous because the comment reminds me of a joke on the show Designing Women. Let’s see if I can clean it up for print:

      Charlene: I asked this Northern woman, “Where are ya’ll from?” And she said, “I’m from a place where we don’t end our sentences with prepositions.” So I said, “Okay, where are ya’ll from, bit..?”

      Michelle, who commented below is also correct. It is customary, natural, and fully acceptable to end sentences, including interrogatories, with a preposition.

  12. “the land where we don’t end our sentences in prepositions”…
    Seriously? In the context of the article it is a question asked of the author, not one that she has grammatical control over. Second, who cares? A little more self exaltation for you? Look how wise you are indeed!

    Let’s hope your magical land is far away and that you choose to return there soon.

  13. Michelle says:

    Not ending sentences with prepositions is somewhat of a grammatical “myth”. Do a quick search and learn the real story. Back to the topic at hand . . . I really enjoyed this article! I have never filled in the “hometown” portion of my facebook page because I can’t decide if it’s where I’m from or where I live now, both feel like home!