It's not what you're thinking.
By the time I was born, my parents had already raised four daughters. My father, at the time, was 47, and my mother was 39. No doubt exhausted by the whole child-rearing thing, they gave me a lot of freedom to do what I wanted, to a point. For example, while other kids played kickball in the street, I positioned myself in the middle of the downstairs hallway, drawing cartoons. My entire family had to step over or around me for hours at a time. Surprisingly, no one seemed to mind.
My father studied the drawing and gently chastised my sister for her scorn. "He might grow up to be an architect one day," he said.
My mother had other strategies in mind. At first, she used shame as a tactic. "Why can't you be more like So and So?," she'd ask. I'd usually respond by citing that So and So just got into trouble for catching the nearby woods on fire or breaking Coke bottles in the church parking lot.
When the shame game didn't work, my mother tried bargaining with me. If I'd take basketball lessons at the YMCA, she'd give me a reward. I don't remember the exact bribe, but it must have been good because I begrudgingly accepted it. Soon, my mother was driving me to the downtown Greensboro YMCA on a regular basis. Each time, there was a little bit of hope in her heart and a big knot in my stomach.
As I expected, my adventures in basketball were a failure. I was the skinny asthmatic kid who, if he were lucky enough to actually possess the ball at any given moment, looked at it as if it were a live hand grenade. I couldn't get rid of it fast enough. During every game, I was threatened at best, spit on at worst.
But all was not lost.
Back to me. I'd gone to extreme lengths for my costume, wrapping myself in a big decorative blanket, painting my face red, and wearing a black wig. In other words, I went as a kid's politically incorrect idea of a Native American back when we still called them 'Indians.'
After the party was over, my mother picked me up. "Did you have fun?" she asked.
"Not really," I answered. "But I won the costume contest!"
|Halloween with sisters Julia and Mimi. I'm afraid that's me in the tutu.|