It's an innocent question, but I still hate answering it. I usually say "California", even though I haven't been back there for over ten years now. These days I often reply "we've been in Utah for a while, but I'm originally from California". I know a lot of people have had nomadic childhoods as well, so I don't know why it's so hard for me to just say "I moved around a bit" (sometimes I do).
I was born in San Diego and we lived there until I was eight. I have lots of fond memories of San Diego: Sea World, the beach, our funky house with the pepper trees in the yard, the house with a macadamia tree, our other house with the cholo neighbors who raised pit bulls in the back yard, beautiful weather, the zoo, Balboa Park, the smell of oleander blossoms, eating Chinese food at the Peking Cafe, flying kites and riding the carousel at Seaport Village, and so many other memories that I can hardly name them all.
The year I turned eight, my dad got out of the Navy and started working for a defense contractor. We moved to Mountain Home, Idaho in November. The first morning we were there it snowed, and I remember running out to the motel parking lot in my pajamas to play in the little bit of snow dusting the cars and ground. We only lived in Mountain Home for about two and half years. I know it was a hard time for my parents, but I also remember having a lot of fun there. The years between eight and eleven were good ones to spend in a small town. I rode my bike to the pool, the library, and Kings variety store down town. I joined 4H and learned how to sew; I even have some blue ribbons from the county fair. My best friend lived in an old house outside of town and had her own horse. I spent the night at her house often; her mom used to make us warm Postum with cream in it for breakfast. I spent lots of time outside-- playing in the sagebrush when we lived outside of town, riding my bike when we lived in town.
Just before I turned eleven, we moved back to California. This time we lived in Port Hueneme, which is about an hour north of LA along the coast. It's a small town dominated by a Navy base and surrounded by the city of Oxnard. The area (Ventura County) is dominated by agriculture and manufacturing, although these days many of the strawberry fields have been replaced by housing developments and property values are skyrocketing along with the rest of California. Port Hueneme proved to be another fine place for unfettered growing up. My parents found a house within walking distance of schools, a park, and the library. We were only a mile from the beach, which could be reached by a bike trail that ran alongside a "creek" (really a glorified drainage ditch, but it was somewhat pretty). Our ward was friendly and I enjoyed my youth programs. My high school was certainly not a stellar education facility, but most of my teachers were dedicated and I found good friends and stayed out of trouble. One of the best things about Port Hueneme is the fabulous weather; unless the Santa Anas are blowing, it usually stays around seventy degrees or so year round. I got spoiled.
We moved again the summer before my senior year of high school. This time it was to a small town in Maryland; we lived in Saint Mary's county, which no one has ever heard of because it's that far out in the sticks. It's the little bit of land down where the Potomac river enters Chesapeake Bay. Maryland was so unlike anything I'd ever seen before; it really was a shock to me. I remember getting off the plane in Baltimore at 11 o'clock at night and feeling knocked over by the heat and humidity. My high school felt like something I had only seen on television: everyone was white, affluent, and drove their own cars to school. I didn't really make any lasting friends, but I managed to enjoy my senior year of school. I also enjoyed all four seasons, and the flowers during the spring were so beautiful. I still love the DC area and feel at home whenever I go back to visit.
I only lived in Maryland for a year before I moved to Utah for college. I ended up spending ten years in Utah, more or less. I moved home for the summer before I left on my mission and I spent a few more months at home after coming back. Despite all my time there, Utah doesn't quite feel like "home", although it might when I go back to visit next month. I enjoyed my time there but I am glad to be able to move on to somewhere else.
My parents moved to Las Vegas about a year ago, so now I can't even visit Maryland. I think that's one thing that makes it hard to feel like I'm "from" somewhere, because I've never been back to visit the places that formed so much of my past. I would especially like to visit Port Hueneme and see what has changed and what hasn't. As it is, places in the past exist frozen in some sort of nostalgic dream land in my mind. I sometimes envy my friends who grew up in the same house in the same town for their entire lives. They can still go visit their childhood. At the same time, they probably envy me because I am from so many places.