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“Each one of us everywhere defines ourself through the place where we were born and raised. The sense of place shapes each of us in deep and lasting ways. Each of us carries within ourselves a “little postage stamp of native soil” (William Faulkner), and it is to this place that each of us goes to find our clearest, deepest sense of identity.”

Bill Ferris, Chair, NEH, 1998

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Yesterday my grandmother hosted a family reunion, with family and friends, some of whom I hadn’t seen since the last party, already one decade ago. My grandmother remains a classic figure and she has always known how to throw a smashing party, but my favorite part of the evening was long after the party had ended. A few relatives and I sat around the house with my dad’s cousin and my dad as they told many stories about the family. They described the people I had never met, the houses I had never been in, who had what kind of temperament, who did what for a living, and so much more. Hearing these stories are priceless memories and knowledge.  And having heard the characteristics of certain family members, generations above mine, I can identify with them because of a certain characteristic or hobby, and so much about myself and my immediate family falls into place. And while they shared these stories, we sat in my grandmother’s house, which has always been home to me. Between the house, the place, the company, and newly known (to me) connections to my ancetors, I had never felt more at home.