The Dreaded Question

When you live as an expatriate, the most common question you hear is, “Where are you from?”  This question always stumps me.  I am wondering if they want to know where I was born, where my family lives, or where I last lived before coming here.  (In England I discovered that most people wanted to know where my accent is from.)  I usually answer with question, “How far back?”

My family moved house the first time when I was three years old.  By the time I went overseas in 1986, I had lived in 5 states and 6 different cities in the USA.  Each member of my immediate family (parents and sister) lived in a different state.  So you can imagine my confusion as to how to answer.

The answer I should probably give, though, is a town and state in which I never lived.  My grandparents lived in El Dorado, Kansas more than 50 years by the time they both passed on.  Both my parents attended high school in that town.  It is the place we went back to every year for holidays.  I had friends my age from the church youth group there that I hung out with.  When my grandfather started going senile, my grandmother asked my dad (who at the time was an unemployed chemical engineer) to come live with them and help out.  So Dad put his furniture in storage and moved in with his parents, taking care of them both until they died.

One summer, when my oldest was a toddler, she and I flew back to El Dorado to visit my father and grandparents.  The stores in town had a special street sale (where merchandise is moved out onto the street in the sunshine) on Main Street, so Dad suggested he and I go have a ‘look-see’.  I found some nice-looking trousers at a menswear shop that would suit my husband, so I took them inside to purchase them.  While standing at the cash register, I found a check in my wallet that was written to me for work I had done, and muttered under my breath, “Oh I forgot to cash that!”  You can imagine how startled I was when an older man (the owner) in the store said, “I will cash that for you.”  “But it is a third-party check.” I protested.  (Back then even banks would not cash a third-party check for someone out of state.)  “But I know your father.  You are Dick Loban’s daughter, right?”  “How did you know?” I asked.  “I saw you with him outside.  You favor him.  He used to caddy for me as a boy.  He is a good man.  I know your grandparents too; you are from a good, honest family.  Now give me the check.”  So perhaps I could answer the question of ‘where are you from’ with ‘Kansas’.

Along those lines, the answer I really want to give is this: “I’m from the Kingdom of God.”  It would, of course, be completely misunderstood.  I have no pretensions of being an angel or even a Saint – nor do I think America is that kingdom.  But every church we have ever worshipped in – whether the German Lutheran State Church or the Church of England, Methodist or Presbyterian, Christian Church or Church of Christ, Pentecostal or decidely not, there have been Christians who took us in as family saying to us, “I know your Father!  He is good!”

So, where did you say you are from?


About Lois Loban Stuckenbruck

Trained as a Ballerina, then completed a BA in Business Adm and English Literature at Milligan College. More recently trained to be a lay pastor (Reader) in the Church of England. Wife of a Biblical Scholar, Mother of three. I'm an American who has also lived many years in England and Germany (currently Munich). I have worked as an Editorial Assistant, Systems Manager (Xerox Stars on Ethernet Network), and several positions in higher education fundraising (Alumni and Development).
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