The Early Years
I began writing at the age of 12. We literally lived out in the sticks. You know, where you have a PO Box and not a real address like: “5624 Party Lane, Aldo PA.
Nope! Ours was PO Box bla, bla, bla, Harrah, Newalla Road, OK. When you asked for directions you often got landmarks, like, “Well, now, let me see. You go down this road a ways till you see the old oak tree on the corner off to your left. You know, the one with the run down white house that needs painting?” or “You can’t get there from here. You’ll have to go way back about ten miles and take a right onto high way 44 (or some such) till you get to this town.” Not city directions like, “You need to go a quarter of a mile west, then turn left on Sunny Lane and it’s the 3rd house down.” then they give the house number.
I said I started writing at 12, but really, I began putting words together as soon as I could write a complete sentence, using my very fertile imagination to create.
Writing was my way of escaping my lonely and confusing world. I didn’t realize it then, but I was already suffering from ADHD, clinical depression and PTSD Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, from an abusive past I didn’t, wouldn’t or couldn’t remember.
Isolation was another factor in writing stories. We lived five miles from the little town of Harrah, and our closest neighbor was a quarter of a mile away. Our next door neighbor was a farmer named, get this, Mr. Farmer! My school bus driver, who was also our dairy man, was named Mr. Drury. I’m not exagerating!
I’d already read all the books in the children’s and tween’s section of the local library which provided some kind of escape, but I needed more. Growing up in lonely isolation meant that my dolls became my tea time acquaintances, and the chickens, ducks and rabbits were close friends. But my best friend was my cat Blackey (more about him later).
On the positive side, I had a 5 1/2 acre play ground which, for a kid with extra energy to burn, was the best therapy I could’ve had. I said it was 5 1/2 but it might as well have been a 100. I’d explored every inch, nook and cranny of that acreage by the time I was 10. I knew every little lizard, horned toad and turtle in the area, not to mention grasshoppers, stick bugs and Praying Mantices. My favorite hang out as a child was an out-cropping of sand stone, out of which a little stream flowed into a nearby pond. I’d watch, fascinated as the craw- dads and little fish came gurgling of that little spring. My curiosity as it was, I’d often to catch the craw-dads to examine them. I even got pinched a time or two!
Still, some 40 yrs later, I wish I could go back to that beautiful place, my feet kicking up brown, dead leaves on the dry ground across the bridge from our back yard. My hands would be in my pockets as I stroll through a canopy of leafless trees. But all through my school years Blackey was my very best friend. always seemed to know what I was troubled about, watching me with those wise blue eyes. He would seem to listen as I told him about everything that was going wrong in my life, and then I’d spend time talking to God with Blackey right beside me.
My home life was privileged Upper Middle Class, but strained, with an overbearing but loving father who preferred to yell rather than speak in a normal voice (military training I’m guessing) and lose his temper at any time and spank rather than speak reasonably, and a passive aggressive mother who somehow turned anything and everything into something that I’d done wrong. There was a lot of mental abuse.
I loved to spend hours alone in my room, reading to escape the stresses of school and every day life at home, and found I could become anyone I wanted to be in my imagination through the world of books and stories. A whole new world of alternative realities and alter-egos opened up to me when I began to write. I could make up short stories, and even tried my hand at writing a novel when I was in middle school.
A geek to the core, my free times at school were spent volunteering in the school library and hanging around with the other rejects like me. You know, the ones who didn’t have parents who could get them anything they wanted. We didn’t have the acid wash denim jackets and jeans or high-top tennis shoes and didn’t have our hair cut into a mullet, super permed and super teased until it was at least 2 to 3 inches away from our scalps. I wore regular denim jeans and preferred my own style, like wearing brown eye shadow instead of day-glow.
Kids like me weren’t part of the cool crowd. Our parents couldn’t afford the latest designer fashions. We were the (slow learners) and the geeks who knew more about computers, computer programming, and Star Wars than the whole school put together. We preferred to listen to groups like the Talking Heads, ACDC and Cindy Lauper instead of Madonna, Flock of Sea Gulls, or Duran Duran and spent our lunch hours playing Dungeons and Dragons instead of joining one of the social clicks. But we had each other’s backs and stuck together. So that was enough.
Kids around that age can be very cruel and heartless when you don’t fit in, so it was hard growing up. Especially in Middle School. I had a stuttering problem and was liable to freeze if called upon in class to speak. I was harassed more from 6th through 8th grade than in Elementary and High School put together. For example: Being painfully shy at 11 I’d begun to blossom earlier than my other female class mates, so I hated the community shower after PE (where I was an absolute klutz to the max) and preferred to take my showers when they were finished. Which always made me late to my next class and I always had wet hair. That novel I mentioned earlier? Well it ended up in a toilet in the girl’s locker room along with my favorite pair of boots. (I don’t remember how I got to my next class that day!)
I stood out without even meaning to. Different from the usual sea of look a like kids, but I kept writing. Getting back at the basketball jocks and cheer leaders who kept harassing me through my stories was awesome! I could come to school the next day with a confident grin on my face knowing full well the pranks I’d pulled on them in my imagination the night before. And I kept pursuing my dream of being a well known author one day. Getting my name out there; making my mark on the world.
I spent many an hour late into the night on too much homework. My reading comprehension wasn’t the best, so it took 2 or 3 times of reading through a text to comprehend it completely. Mom would allow me to play in “The Hundred Acre Wood”, which was my nick-name for the 5 1/2 acres, for about 30 minutes, then inside for a snack and on to my homework until dinner.
I was ADHD when nobody had any idea what ADHD was back then, and I’d asked my teachers plenty of times if they could lightened my work load because my highest grade average was a C. And not for lack of trying. Many a night I stayed up till one or two o’clock in the morning trying to finish and hating subjects like Science, History and Math, not to mention getting into trouble for falling asleep at my desk the next morning. Talk about depressing.
My only saving grace during those years was Summer School which my family, finally fed up with their attitude of “If you can’t hack it, you get left behind,” worked out with the school principle. The downside was that I was stuck in Remedial Reading classes for the rest of Middle School. “Remedial Reading”, a fancy name for where to put the dumb kids.
Although I wasn’t the brightest kid in school, there were a few things I excelled at: English, Literature, and Creative Writing, and Artistic pursuits like music theory, speech, and drama. Yeah, a shy kid like me! Who’d a thunk! I even excelled in some sports, like archery, golf, soccer, and floor hockey, where I got banged up pretty good but I loved every minute of it!