I have always loved words.
I have blanketed myself underneath of them, for protection, for love, for acceptance. I have kept company with the words in my head, on paper, secret words that were all mine to do with as I wish. Words that made sense to me and explained the painful events around me: that changed over time with new experiences and new understandings. Words that never betrayed me even when I would make unrealistic demands of them, rearrange them, manipulate them, convince them to console me; to be mine. And they did. I learned to create perfect relationships where we agreed on most everything. I did this in order to embrace changes in my life.
Because we moved a lot, I have only snippets of the many places in my young mind’s eye. There were sliding doors leading to a back yard with a rusted trampoline; a spiral staircase carpeted with olive green shag that led to my bedroom where a summer breeze would whisper through lemon-yellow sheer drapes; a single-car garage that smelled of gasoline and spoiling peaches; a little white dishwasher that had black tentacles that hooked up to the kitchen sink faucet; a drafty trailer house where I walked to a school that I attended only long enough to receiving a paddling for taking a watermelon Jolly Rancher candy from a teacher’s desk.
The move to Washington is where I discovered how to retreat into the blank pages of my early school notebooks. It was here I could find myself – find a sense of freedom, if only for a time.
I needed a place to escape. From my sisters, from my angry, unhappy mother who kept company with my step-father who was an equally miserable human being that I called Dad, and from a life where I felt alienated. All I ever remember wanting was to be near my Pop, but I had two dark keepers who knew of my hearts happiness and made that impossible. I chose to have love affairs instead. Yes. Even at eight years old, I had love affairs.
I fell in love with flowers, butterfly wings, the snarled bark of an elm tree, the drops of water glinting on a spider’s web, the mysterious colors of the sunrises and sunsets, the smell of bread, or dusty summer rains, or the first cut grass of summer. I was in love with boys with brown eyes, or blue eyes, or kind smiles. I loved watching my Grandmothers delicate tissue paper skin as she crocheted, or the way my pillow smelled after my father laid his head on it to say good night to me. And I wanted to capture and preserve them on white, blank paper canvas.
This is how I survived my childhood. Observation and separation. I learned to become a social child, while remaining a lonely child. I learned to make friends easily, while enjoying my time alone. I learned to disappear inside of my mind, inside of my words. I would learn to use language as a way to understand and express myself, to indulge in fantasy and blur the lines of painful reality onto the pages of my notebooks – and eventually to my journals, then to my fiction and non-fiction. I would find happiness among the words I met and made friends with – trusting only those who would acquiesce.