What is this urge to write everything down?
What were the first memories?
I can remember being 3. It was my birthday, and we were flying to Oklahoma. I had a coconut cake there. I forgot my suitcase, and my parents had to buy me new clothes in Oklahoma. My dad tried to give me birthday spankings that morning, and I wasn’t having it, because I felt that I was no longer a baby.
I can recall these early dreams that can only be described as macabre. My great-grandmother was decapitated, and her head was in my window, while her body ran around the back yard below. There were many dreams of losing my penis, and reattaching it. Often, there was this bright green goop inside where it broke off.
I recall my brother getting excited about the year 1980, and he liked the Minnesota Vikings, and talked my mom into buying him a purple jersey shirt with the number 80 on it. I would have still been three then. I can recall a trip to Indiana as well, where I wouldn’t have been older than five.
I remember my fourth birthday, running around with a marker writing the number 4 on all of my toys. This is when I became more interested in our dogs, and I liked to pet our dog Tanya a lot. I recall my dad babysitting me for awhile because he worked the night shift. We would go down and work in his dark room.
If you asked me to draw our split-level, two-story home that was built just a few years before I was born, I could give you pretty detailed floor plans. I could also point out where a black widow spider lived, as well as where all of the furniture went. My dad hung his favorite black and white photos he’d developed on the upper part of the kitchen wall. Most of this wall was cut away and separated the split level of the kitchen dining area and the living room.
I recall a few trips to the mountains, where we went camping. I remember my dad buying a band saw and my dad and brothers getting interested in woodworking. I was given a little kid’s saw that didn’t cut very well, and I couldn’t really cut in a straight line. My homemade boxes looked like complete disasters.
I recall a storage area off of the basement stairs as you walked down. One day during a summer that I was four or five, my brother and I played dress-up with the old clothes we’d found. He grabbed one of my dad’s old air force uniforms, and I grabbed a dress that was ruffly and had a pink bow on it. The dress felt perfectly normal, but my mom was furious and didn’t want me to start a career of crossdressing. Even a few minutes spent in a girl’s clothes would wreck my little psyche, apparently.
About that time, R, my oldest brother, got caught trying on my mom’s pantyhose. She found out because he threw them in the dirty laundry when he was done, and she never washed her hosiery in the main laundry. Again, my mom was furious and insistent that a few minutes spent in women’s clothing would mess you up for life.
The church we went to was an Episcopalian one, but I can recall my mom becoming active in a prayer group that prayed in tongues and believed they were “spirit-filled.” I believe that she and other members of this group went on to splinter off and start their own church, but I could be remembering this wrong. The only church I can remember is an Episcopalian one.
My mom was already pretty religious by the time I had any memories. We had our nightly “devotionals” in the main little hall area that connected everyone’s rooms. She didn’t really change these up for the rest of her life. She would say the Lord’s Prayer, and then veer off into saying some other prayers from scripture and her memory. Then, we would read some Bible verses, and a daily devotional from one of her publications.
I have this memory after moving to Missouri where I looked at our map of the United States in the hallway and decided that I wanted to go to college in California. Since I was a pretty sheltered kid, I don’t think I had developed much of a picture of what California from movies or anything, but it just seemed fitting and advanced to attend school in a state on the edge of the continent. I was probably 11 or 12. My mom immediately put a stop to this idea, saying, oh no, you wouldn’t want to go to school in California. People there have no roots or sense of tradition.
This was a rather ironic thing for her to say, since she had gone to school briefly in California when her mom moved back out there, and had settled in San Francisco after deciding that she wanted to be a flight attendant instead of a teacher. Also, more recently, I’ve come to see the irony in this statement, because my mom’s religious tendencies were toward getting involved with churches and telEgelists who were decidedly non-traditional or mainstream–Pentecostal ministries that had been in existence only for a few years.
I am not sure why I allowed certain things my parents said to influence me deeply, while other things they said to do or not to do were things I rebelled against easily and often. I was really a people-pleaser of the worst kind, I think. Not only did I want to do things that would please my extremely religious mom and my extremely agnostic dad, but I wanted to do things that would please my older brothers as well. I sought out friendships in High School and college with people I thought my brothers would be impressed with. My behavior was pretty chaotic and hard to pin down. My over-arching goal, hope, dream, etc., was that our entire family would one day be reunited completely, and we would all find some common ground in both religious beliefs and ways of living with each other. I couldn’t believe for a long time that our family was doomed to never come back together again.
The parts of me that were weird, strange or sometimes perceived as effeminate–where did these come from?
This is really the question I’ve been asking my entire life. The first time I noticed that I might not be quite the average, normal little boy I thought I was–this was when we first went down to Florida. I was five. My grandmother had somewhat recently married–this was her third or fourth marriage, and the last one she would have. The man’s name was JL.
He was a WWII vet, who liked to BS us kids with really dry humor, but didn’t appreciate the way I acted or talked. My mom told me that he liked a good joke, and I made him a card where I attempted as a five-year-old to make a play on words with his name and “long johns” — thermal underwear. He looked at the card and looked at me, and I giggled and pressed my mom to explain the joke to him, but he just kept staring at me intently with these steely eyes–I didn’t understand why he wasn’t laughing, but I could sense even then that he didn’t like me.
Grandpa J, as we called him, would frequently take my older brothers fishing or simply to run errands while we were visiting them, and it required a ton of my begging and my mom’s nagging to get him to take me along. I think he took me once on a fishing trip, and bulshitted me that we were fishing for sharks. He seemed to resent it if I didn’t get that he was bulshitting, and also resent it when I figured out that he was, and laughed appropriately at his dry humor. In hindsight, I became convinced that he assumed I was gay. I have limited glimpses of memories where I behaved in such a silly fashion that someone might draw that conclusion. However, having never felt even a slight attraction for the same sex, and reading up on Asperger’s, I wonder a lot if I might have just been mildly autistic.
I don’t think I went to pre-school. I believe my mom or dad stayed home with me most of the time, and occasionally, I was left with a friend of my mom’s who babysat me. I recall a house full of kids where my mom left me but a few times, and once, upon going outside to get away from all of the screaming, a kid threw a rock at me and hit me in the eye. But, my eye never swelled or bruised, and I never told anyone. There was a house that had one or two little girls and a little boy who liked to draw on his penis with magic markers. The mom let him run around naked like a savage, and I thought it was utterly incredible that a mom would do something like that. I remember one of the little girls telling me that she knew how to read, when it was plain and clear that she didn’t–she had grabbed a Bible, and was just pretending to read it.
My best friend was an African American kid named CM, who lived across the street and over one house. He had a little sister K, and I played with them fairly frequently. The O family lived directly across the street from us, and they had two girls that were roughly my brothers’ age. I believe one of them died young in a car accident. Next door to us on one side was a gay couple with a live-in servant or aunt or some such. They would get furious if any of us kids even slightly touched their lawn. On the other side was a rich pilot with a beautiful wife or girlfriend–this was the first time I heard the term “fox” to describe a beautiful lady. They had an in-ground pool, and we were invited to go to one of their parties once. I can remember trying to walk as far as I could walk before the pool got too deep, and I didn’t know how to swim. I got scared when I sucked in water, and didn’t tell my mom what had happened. My older brother R and I would sit on our jungle gym equipment in our back yard and look over and across the fence at their pool parties.
I remember going grocery shopping at a grocery store called King Sooper with my mom, and wanting to have a sugary dessert like Chris Murray. This was the first time I ever stole anything — I took a couple of individually wrapped pop tarts out of their box and pocketed them. When we got home, I ran around to the side of the house, unseen by my mom, and devoured them as quickly as possible.
When we still lived in Colorado, we had three cars. We had a red Dodge pickup truck, a blue Volkswagen bug, and a green AMC Hornet. The Bug was sold, the Dodge was traded for a cranky old Ford Econoline van, and the Hornet came with us to Missouri and became R’s first car. Apparently, my dad also had a motorcycle which he kept until I was born.
I heard a lot about how different things were before I came along. Mom wasn’t nearly as religious and the older brothers got to watch whatever they wanted. They were taken to see the first Star Wars, and I can remember my dad taking them to see Indiana Jones. I was taken to see a Winnie-the-Pooh movie when I was four, and I would not set foot inside of a movie theater again until I was seventeen. Apparently, my brothers also got to stay up as much as they liked, and were given whatever toys they wanted. Much later, though, my brother R was completely convinced that I was a much more spoiled kid by my parents. This was probably partly true, but I think a lot of my spoiling, and the subsequent spoiling of my younger brother was due to my dad making more money in his later jobs.
I honestly couldn’t tell you if things got worse between my older brothers and my parents after I arrived, or if they were always getting into trouble at school and causing my parents to wring their hands and wonder what they should do next. To hear my dad tell it, my brothers were full of issues the day they were adopted, but it’s hard to know. I am sure my arrival didn’t help anything. In spite of my parents making some great efforts not to show partiality to their biological son (and later sons when H came along), there is no doubt that many unspoken expressions of body language and emotions came forth to indicate that the biological sons were preferred. It’s by and large a natural thing–biological parents, unless they are screwed up like Casey Anthony or something, tend to bond more deeply and regularly with their biological children. Even if this weren’t so, my screaming, poopy, hungry, infant self simply demanded almost complete attention from my mom for a couple of years.
At any rate, I have pretty strong memories of at least R getting in trouble while we still lived in Colorado. He bullied some girl on the school bus, I think. R was fifteen when we left Colorado, and he had already started working at a part-time job that he bicycled to when we were living in Colorado during our last year.