Early Years

Not surprisingly, I grew up with a host of personality disorders, not least of which was a perturbing inability to control my emotions. A typical evening might find the three of us playing some board game … Life, perhaps. Daran, the oldest and most experienced, would have a natural advantage, but would still cheat shamelessly — just for the practice, I suppose. As the youngest and least experienced, I had little chance of being victorious over my siblings, and there was none of this, “oh, let’s let him win once in a while.” Instead, they would usually beat me mercilessly until I was eliminated from the game. Then, as I sat there struggling to master the urge to demonstrate my disappointment with a little wailing, they would both look at me, grin, and say (in chorus) “Go ahead. Cry!” I would almost always accommodate them.

I wouldn’t like to give the impression that all my childhood experiences were unpleasant (at least, as regards my siblings). On

Daran’s little shed

the contrary, I have many happy memories. I remember that my brother, older and meaner as he was, was nevertheless afraid of the dark. He had a little shed out in our back yard, and before he had the idea of turning its lights on by screwing in the fuse inside the house (remember fuses?) he would sometimes come find me when he had business out there after dark. “Want to go out to my shop with me?” he would ask nonchalantly. Mom and dad would snicker, but it was years before I caught on.

Our house was bordered by woods, and they seemed like a wilderness to us although in later years I would learn that they were only about one square mile. A little stream flowed through it, and we would “hike” out to a place where it trickled over a large flat rock. We called this place, “The Falls” and it looms large in my childhood memories. After my brother and sister grew older and left such things behind, I spent many of the uncomfortable days of my adolescence alone in these woods, hiking around, camping out, and even hunting (illegally, as I later learned, within the city limits of Atlanta) for squirrel and quail.

There was an old cemetery in the woods right behind our house, where ancient, weathered stones stood above overgrown graves, some of them sunken and collapsed. We liked telling visitors about it, and also about the strange, inexplicable events we had experienced in our home.