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Monthly Archives: September 2012

The Big White House

While I don’t have a lot of memory of living in “the country” in the red house, my recollection is much more vivid of moving from the “country” into the big sprawling town of Baldwin, Louisiana on Cypremort Street which has since been renamed Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive. With a total population of about 3,000 people. One stop light baby!

This was a huge white Southern home with no insulation and no air conditioning. Ceilings are 12 feet high and there is a wide hall down the middle so that you could open the front door and back door to get a nice gulf coast breeze. There was a porch that wrapped around two sides of the house with access to the front door and the side door. Yes we had a swing on the porch too. It’s where we ate watermelon and waved to anyone that went by. It was known in my town as “dah big ‘ol white hous, cross frumm dah Forgey stoh, by dah cat-lick church, down by mon-clah lumbah stoh” it is probably still know as that today. We Cajuns have a dialect all our own y’all.

Strangers and solicitors used the front door (because we never did) family and friends used the side door and neighbors used the back door. For years we never even locked the doors ever. There was no need… neighbors watched out for each other and they all believed in bearing arms… Nuff said.

I remember moving day a little. There were family and friends to help and I rode to the new house with my uncle’s wife or girlfriend. I don’t remember if they were ever married or not. My parents purchased the two level home on an acre of land for $30,000. Yep. $30,000 is correct. Remember it was a simple wooden structure with no amenities and in disrepair.

My favorite memories in this house were the attics and the big oak tree in the back yard. These were both places that I could explore and get away when life got to be too much for a kid who realized that he was different from other boy kids. Why didn’t I talk about it? Why didn’t I reach out? I wish deeply that I knew the answer to this. The only conclusion I have is that I grew up in an environment where being different wasn’t accepted (different = WRONG) and talking about feelings wasn’t encouraged or even recognized (ignore = it wasn’t really there or true). It was always better to ignore an issue than to talk or ask questions. My opinion or interest was either ignored or minimized… Trust me those who know me know that I like to talk A LOT. So talking wasn’t the issue. The issue was having someone to talk to and having them listen and validate me. That never happened. I didn’t even get the S-E-X talk like most children. I learned everything that I knew about the “S-word” from my classmates on the playground and the Junior and Senior High friends. For the longest time I thought that sex was spelled with the four letter “F-word.” The reason for this dysfunction became real to me when I was in my late teens or early twenties at thanksgiving dinner (I think I may have been home from Bible College) when I was accidentally made aware by my aunt that an influential and close family member was a sex offender. To this day a lot of the family still chooses to live in denial about him. They claim that he got better or asked forgiveness or whatever else makes them feel better about his horrible, life-changing actions that changed the dynamic of that family and mine forever.

I cannot however live in that denial. While I was never molested or abused by him, he robbed me of authenticity and the opportunity for open dialogue with my family. You see…I hid in a closet from my authentic self for 42 1/2 years while some of my family still choose to live scared, in a closet from what they themselves know is true and real. Many do not want to expose and accept truth. They would rather remain silent and ignore. And while they remained silent and ignored, he continued to hurt others. Silence is a double-edged sword. This is why I will not be silent about who I am. I choose to live authentic even if it means that family is no longer family and friends are no longer friends. My closet is clean. It smells fresh and can finally be used for storing decorations and coats like it should be. Closets are not for people… they are for hanging Chanel. (that is just for you C.B. in AK)

Getting back to the move… I lived in the same home from kindergarten to college. I loved my kindergarten teacher. She was nice and tough and my favorite time was nap time. Some things never change. My best friend in kindergarten was Kathy R. She is one of the few names that I will name as she has passed away due to health complications. I can still hear her laugh. It was so contagious. We got into big trouble once when she had me climb onto her shoulders to reach for a book on the top shelf. She lost balance and I fell into the bookshelf and it fell onto a classmate that we both had a crush on. He had blond hair and blue eyes. After the teacher made sure that we didn’t have concussions or cuts she put Kathy and I outside the kindergarten door. Oh noooooo… What would we do? We knew that the principal would soon make his “rounds” to all the classrooms to find all the naughty kids outside their door and they would get a stern talking to or a swat with his paddle if he deemed it necessary. Those were the days when we respected authority. Our principal meant business. The sound of rattling keys still makes me stand up straight and behave like a gentleman.

We stood outside and giggled and talked about how cute Richie (name changed to protect the innocent) was and that someday she would marry him. I’m sure I gave her the “stink-eye.” I wanted him…he was so handsome… Lol. Then we heard it… off in the distance, coming our way… The rattling keys! The principal had some sort of disability in which one of his legs was shorter than the other. He had a large ring of keys that he clipped to his side. When he walked, the keys jingled. We knew we had about 2 minutes to protect ourselves. What to do… What to do… I figured it out…I’m creative like that ya know. See I learned how to hide at a very young age. OK… that was supposed to be funny y’all.

The kindergarten classes were in portable buildings that were about one foot off the ground. We cold go under there and wait for him to go by. So we went for it. Risking spiders, roaches and yes in the swamps of Louisiana…even snakes. We got under just in time. How he never heard us giggle is beyond me, but he finally went by. I was never so glad he had a limp. Phew! We got away with it. No talking to…and no swats.

So after we heard him turn the corner we came out, dusted each other off and asked permission to come back inside the class. Mrs. Brown (name changed to protect the innocent) asked if Mr. Sultan (name changed to protect the innocent) had talked to us. We said yes with giggles (Big ole LIARS) and were accepted back into the classroom. We both apologized to Richie and we laughed at that story until we graduated high school together. I miss you Kathy R. May you truly rest in peace my friend. Save me a place would ya? I do however wish to live in the downtown area of Heaven. I’ve always wanted to live downtown somewhere. LOL!

As I write this, I am amazed that even as early as kindergarten I was in-like with boys. On the contrary, I was always found on the playground in a circle of “outcast” girls. Not outcast by my standards, but outcast by the skinny, mean-girl club. These girls were not the cheerleader, model type. These were the girls that were average/normal weight and not skinny/anorexic. They were simple and cared about others more than they cared about their make-up, hair, designer clothes, and what the jocks thought of them. I wish I could share their names (not the mean ones… the nice ones silly) so that they know how much I love them. They know who they are. I love you ladies. Think Drama Class 11th and 12th grade. That should clarify for some of you. It was you ladies who made my life worth living and not carrying out my plan to “check out early.”

Wow… I went from Kindergarten to High School. I’ll back track next post. There is some awesome stuff in between.

I’ll close today by assuring you that I am NOT angry or blaming anyone. This is my life. I own it. I love it. It helped mold me into the authentic person that I am today. I am gay man who loves GOD, his former wife and children. I am happy and healthy. I am not afraid of scars. I welcome them… Nah… Maybe not. But, they prove that what tried to kill me didn’t. I love life and the things that this life have brought me thus far. I look forward to the future for once in my life. I can’t wait to see what it will bring to me. I will embrace it because it is what God has chosen to entrust to me. AND SO IT IS! Amen?

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Posted by on September 12, 2012 in Journey to Authenticity

 

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G.I. Joe Dolls, Easy Bake Ovens & Loop Weaving…

At a very young age, I remember being different from other boys.  I had a very sensitive demeanor and never understood why I didn’t fit in with boys but mostly related to the girls.  The whole sports thing bored me to tears and I could never understand the winning and loosing thing.  After all… wasn’t it just a stupid game?  I never wanted to dress like girls, but I certainly wanted to play with what they were playing with.  G.I. Joe Dolls, strollers, easy-bake oven and weave looms.  You know, the one where you would criss-cross the strips of stretchy fabric to make “pot-holders.”  No… not that kind of “pot” silly.  like a cooking pot.  I remember make tons of those. The were ugly, but I loved making them.

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Early on in this blog I stated a desire or need to go back to my childhood and try to remember all that I could about who I am and where I came from.  Not necessarily geographic, but more philosophical and behavioral.  Though I do believe that your geographic location lends to your philosophical and behavioral journey.  I grew up in the deep south of Louisiana where wealth, education and free-thinking was rare.

I don’t remember a lot about my childhood.  I also don’t believe in repressed memories.  I believe that if it didn’t happen, you won’t remember it and putting one under sedation or hypnosis to help them to “bring it forward” is modern-day snake oil.  Just my personal belief.  So here is my journey into what I do remember.

I have come to know that I was born in Franklin, Louisiana at Franklin Foundation Hospital in St. Mary Parish Louisiana.  I was scheduled to be born on or near September 4th, 1969.  September 4th is my parent’s wedding anniversary.  I obviously came early on August 11th, 1969 which is about 4 weeks premature.  In the year 2012, when a child is born premature, (especially boys) they are kept in the NICU until the lungs are fully developed and the child is healthy.  In 1969, that child was sent home as soon as possible.  That seems to be my case.  In fact, my health has been fragile my entire life and I have the asthma, allergies and overall fatigue to prove it. Here is a little info about St. Mary Parish (known as counties as well)

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As of the census[7] of 2000, there were 8,354 people, 3,026 households, and 2,181 families residing in the city. The population density was 806.5 people per square mile (311.3/km²). There were 3,352 housing units at an average density of 323.6 per square mile (124.9/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 47.47% White, 50.00% African-American, 0.63% Native American, 0.31% Asian, 0.30% from other races, and 1.28% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.79% of the population.

There were 3,026 households out of which 36.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.5% were married couples living together, 22.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.9% were non-families. 25.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.72 and the average family size was 3.26.

In the city the population was spread out with 30.4% under the age of 18, 8.0% from 18 to 24, 26.4% from 25 to 44, 21.8% from 45 to 64, and 13.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years, more than a year older than the state-wide median age of 34.0 years. For every 100 females there were 81.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 77.6 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $24,844, and the median income for a family was $30,625. Males had a median income of $32,188 versus $16,935 for females. The per capita income for the city was $12,943. About 24.5% of families and 27.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 41.6% of those under age 18 and 15.6% of those age 65 or over.

My earliest memory is living in the “red house” on Charenton Road.  I’m not sure if this was actually in Charenton or Baldwin or somewhere in between.  I tried to look for it on Google Maps, but I couldn’t find it.  I know that it is no longer red but yellow and I firmly believe that it is still there just on the bank of the Bayou Teche.  If anyone in that area knows of it, please send a photo?  Thx.

My parents are Charles Lloyd Derouen, Sr from New Iberia, Louisiana (Iberia Parish) and my mother is Marie Antoinette Perez Derouen from Jeanerette, Louisiana (Iberia Parish).  Here are some statistics of Iberia Parish:

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As of the census[2] of 2000, there were 73,266 people, 25,381 households, and 19,162 families residing in the parish. The population density was 127 people per square mile (49/km²). There were 27,844 housing units at an average density of 48 per square mile (19/km²). The racial makeup of the parish was 65.08% White, 30.81% Black or African-American, 0.31% Native American, 1.93% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.60% from other races, and 1.25% from two or more races. 1.50% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 11.99% reported speaking French or Cajun French at home, while 1.48% speak Lao and 1.29% Spanish.[1]

There were 25,381 households out of which 39.50% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 53.20% were married couples living together, 17.20% had a female householder with no husband present, and 24.50% were non-families. 21.10% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.70% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.82 and the average family size was 3.28.

In the parish the population was spread out with 30.00% under the age of 18, 9.60% from 18 to 24, 28.40% from 25 to 44, 20.60% from 45 to 64, and 11.40% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33 years. For every 100 females there were 92.80 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.80 males.

The median income for a household in the parish was $31,204, and the median income for a family was $36,017. Males had a median income of $32,399 versus $18,174 for females. The per capita income for the parish was $14,145. About 20.20% of families and 23.60% of the population were below the poverty line, including 31.50% of those under age 18 and 20.20% of those age 65 or over.

My parents married very young, both under 20 and I was their third child.  I think that my father was in Ft. Smith, Arkansas when I was born as he was in the National Guard at the time.  I clearly don’t remember this. I do know that my mother is one of 12 children and was 16 when she married and 20 years old when she gave birth to me.

Getting back to my earliest memories as a child.  I remember living in the “red-house.”  It had a large front porch, and upstairs, which we never went up to.  It had a huge yard that backed up to the Bayou Teche.  We were never allowed past the barbed wire fence as there were cows back there and I was afraid of coming in contact with one of the multiple kinds of snakes that come with living along the Bayou.  I remember that the Kitchen was at the far back of the house and that the living room was in the far front.  I have no recollection of where the bedrooms were.  I do know that it had a HUGE oak tree with a tire swing and another HUGE oak tree with a tree-house.  I was rarely allowed up there because I couldn’t climb well and it seemed to be the property of my older brother.  I was actually kinda scared of it.  I had bad dreams about a mean old witch being up there with poison apples.  I just stayed away.  The tree swing scared me because I was always afraid that there was a snake inside the tire.  I just didn’t take those kind of chances.  We also had a cattle guard at the beginning of our drive and I remember being able to put my legs between the bars and letting my feet dangle until someone told me that a snake could get me.  That fixed that.  I also remember once or twice walking my brother and sister to the bus.  It’s vague, but I do remember it.

I do remember the neighbor to the left of us about out 100 or 200 yards away in the “little white house.”  Ya see, where I’m from in the swamps, we refer to houses by size and color and by location to the next nearest house, grocery store, bar, catholic church, cemetery or bridge.  It’s just easier than learning direction and street addresses.  Kinda funny ha?  Now I live in the 5th largest U.S. city and I need a GPS to get to my daughters school just three streets over.

Well, in the little white house there lived a family with two girls, one boy named Adam and a mom and a dad.  This is very early on in my life, so I can’t be specific about names or what they even looked like.  I do however remember that Adam was cute, nice and he had G. I. Joe dolls with camo clothes.Image

I Loved playing with his G.I. Joe dolls and he was so nice too.  His sisters were nice, but he was the only boy that I knew had dolls.  In all reality, at this young of an age, he was probably the only boy other than my brother that I knew.  I loved playing there and would often sneak playing with the Barbie dolls too.  I was intrigued with the male physique.  I know this is VERY early in my life.  I don’t even know my age at this time, but I clearly remember the buff chest, abs and arms of the G.I. Joe doll.

I love the weave loom and Easy Bake oven.  It allowed me to be creative and express what was going on in my little creative mind.  I always felt like I had to sneak to play with those toys.  I knew that those were girl toys and boy toys were guns, football, bikes and such.

I don’t remember living in that house very long.  My parents purchased a home in Baldwin, Louisiana (St. Mary Parish) on 306 Cypremort Street.  The street name was eventually changed to  Martin Luther King, Jr. Street and the address was changed to 504 with then implementation of the 911 system.  We still however only got mail at our post office box which was #215.  I even remember our old phone number.

I’ll tell you more about the move from the “red house” to the “Big white house by the Forgey’s store” in my next post.  I remember more about this stage of my life, so buckle down.  This is gonna be a good ride.

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2012 in Journey to Authenticity

 

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