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?