I was born in November of 1957 to Ray and Anita Paden at Georgia Baptist Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. The youngest of three children,
I had no idea what was waiting for me at home, but of course, I couldn’t have done anything about it anyway. My brother, Daran, was delighted to have a new little sibling on which to practice his pranks and tortuous experiments. My sister, Lynndale, was finally able to yield herself to the invading spirit that sought to control her … the ghost of a 19th century school marm. Here I am at 4 months. Cute, wasn’t I? That didn’t last long.
I don’t remember too much about my early life, except for Daran tormenting me and Lynndale teaching me to read and cipher. When I was born, my family lived in a quaint little house on Hill Street in Lakewood Heights, but I have no memories of it. For me, life began in a three-bedroom brick home on Hutchens Road, a suburb in southeast Atlanta. That house is still there today, and I occasionally drive by and get all misty with reminiscence. One of my earliest
memories is of falling off of that home’s carport wall into a rose bush. I was standing on the wall trying to lasso the wayward shrub, but when I caught it and gave a tug the villainous vegetation caught me instead. This was during the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and many of our neighbors ran from their homes in search of a bomb shelter. In addition to serving as a platform for falling, the carport wall also served as a capital workbench for any kind of hammering, cutting, burning or painting chore a child might undertake. I might add that my father was usually unappreciative of my constructive and destructive efforts, to the extent that they involved the carport wall.
As you can see from this photo dated June of 1964, I was an avid reader. It’s hard to tell from this small rendering, but I’m perusing a catalog with pictures of guns. The groundwork for many of my varied careers was laid here in this humble library, where I filled my head with wisdom. I especially remember learning about dinosaurs and insects from the Golden Book Encyclopedia. I also gained a knowledge of guns and my first basic understanding of female anatomy from the Sears and Roebuck catalog. But I never did join the navy.
Only someone who grew up the youngest of three siblings can appreciate the joys and trials I faced in those days. Mom and dad would sometimes leave us at home alone at night, and we would conduct “scare tests” by turning off all the lights in the house and then congregating in the small bathroom adjoining our parent’s bedroom. Alone, one by one, we would leave the safety of that small island of light and negotiate our way through the darkened house. Daran invariably went first so that he could cause a loud crash, utter a strangled cry for help, and then hide in some dark corner and wait for us to investigate. Oftentimes the evening would culminate in me angrily chasing him around and around the house with my sister threatening to tell when mom and dad got home.