I was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. I didn’t live there long; within a few years my family had moved to Louisville, Kentucky, where I spent my so-called ‘formative years.’ I remember billboards coated in the dripping wax of a local bourbon manufacturer, the sickly sweet smell of tobacco at the state fair, and the hot air balloons they would launch every year around the start of the Kentucky Derby.
My last interstate move was in high school, when I left Lakeland High School in the middle of tenth grade for Bellaire here in Houston. One of my first memories was of speaking to newfound friends about the beaches in Florida and Texas, when Galveston was just an ocean-blue blank in my imagination.
In my experience, there are two types of children who move around: the children of enlisted men and women and the children of engineers. My parents were engineers. My mother studied chemical engineering at Pratt Institute, an art school in New York City, and to this day, she says she would have been better off studying painting. Of course, it’s fortunate for me that she didn’t: since Pratt didn’t offer chemical engineering courses, she had to take them at Polytechnic University in Brooklyn (now merging with NYU), and that was where she met my father. For me, NYC was always associated with grandparents, aunts, uncles, the immigrant section of Queens, and relatives braving the flyover country to stay for a weekend with us.
Everyone comes from somewhere. One of the joys of teaching with WITS has been hearing the stories of my students and seeing Houston outside its familiar context, as the backdrop to a strange new young life. I know that, one day, the students I teach will be telling stories like these, too. My hope is that, when they do, my teaching will make them richer.
posted by Julian Martinez, Writers in the Schools