I was born in rural New York, in a small town named Redhook. Like most people, I have few memories of my early years. I do remember a few things, though. When I was still very young, I remember being at the front door to our house. My mom told me my dad was going bowling and he wouldn’t be back for a while. I didn’t know what bowling was, but I didn’t like what I was hearing. My dad was ready and set to go. I was scared. I didn’t want my dad to leave.
Later, we moved to Washington State where my dad worked for an airplane company named Boeing.
A few years later, outside my grandma’s trailer home, my uncle was playing on his Nintendo. I think he was playing Kung Fu, but I don’t know for sure. That was my first exposure to video games.
Another thing I remember is an argument my dad had with my mom’s family about TV shows. I think at the time, the Simpsons was still new and interesting. My mom’s family were watching it, but my dad didn’t like it. He thought it encouraged children to treat their fathers badly. A character in the story always treated his father badly. Children might imitate what they saw on the TV, he said.
When we first moved to Washington, my family lived in an apartment. My parents and three older sisters probably felt a little cramped in there, but I didn’t feel particularly bad about it. My younger sister probably didn’t, either. It was fun, actually. I remember playing on a bed with one of my sisters. I remember she put a hair or something in my face and went “Eww!”, so of course, I went, “Eww!”, too. In hindsight, I think she was probably pulling pubic hairs out and presenting them to me. Eww, indeed. I know that human memory is highly fallible, so I may be adding my own adult interpretation of events. But, it’s funny to think that I pushed my sister’s own pubes back in her face, so I like my memory as it is.
At the same apartment, I remember learning how to swim with my dad. I almost drowned one time, but a black lady saved me. One time, I got out of the pool and dragging my big toes on the concrete path back home. They actually started bleeding. I have no idea why I did that. Definitely didn’t look like a future Nobel Prize winner at that point.
After a short time, my parents rented a house. It felt big to little ol’ me, but it probably wasn’t especially big or small. I learned the colors on my parents’ computer in that house. My mom taught me phonics and simple arithmetic in the basement. She and I often fell asleep in the living room after watching Star Trek together. One day while watching TV on the couch, I tried to sneak a peak of my sister’s boobs (the Pube Sister) by standing above her. She caught me, though.
There were lots of fights in that house. It was almost always fights between my dad and my older sisters. My mom had three daughters with her alcoholic ex-husband before she divorced him and married my dad. Things did not go well with my dad and sisters for a very long time. My dad had a rule against phone calls at night. Well, Pube Sister didn’t like the rule. When my dad tried to take the phone, she banged the phone around, then hurried to the front door. Before going out the door, she punched a hole in the wall. A different sister ran away from home one night and stayed with her friend for a while. One time, after an argument between my mom and dad, I drove around in the car with my dad. I don’t know any of the details, or if it was even an argument between them, but my feeling is my dad needed time to think and cool off. Maybe my mom did, too.
While living in that house, my mom worked at a local church’s daycare. I had to wake up early one time. The only comfort I had was knowing that I had some ramen to eat. At daycare one day, I was playing and saw another boy’s underpants. He had some character on it, not sure which one. So, I showed him my underpants. Scooby Doo. After spending a minute or two presenting our underpants to each other, a lady working at the daycare came and told us to stop. I guess she hadn’t heard about using underpants as conversation starters.
I remember nap time at the daycare. All the kids were piled into a large room and made to sleep on pads on the floor. I often wasn’t all that tired, but I couldn’t have any toys, so I had to find ways to entertain myself. I remember more than once looking up at the dimmed florescent lights on the ceiling, reaching my hand up, saying, “Cheese,” and pretending to each the lights. Maybe they reminded me of string cheese? I don’t know, I wasn’t a smart boy.
One time, my family was getting into the van to go out somewhere. As I was climbing in the car, one of my sisters (not Pube Sister) shut the door on my head by mistake. I still have the scar on my eyebrow from that. Head trauma may explain some of my aggressive tendencies, but who knows. I didn’t hold the incident against her, though. We had fun roller blading together when I got a bit older.
Enough about my older sisters. Let’s talk about my little sister. One day, I hid myself in the living room and called out her name. “I need your help!” I cried. As she came running in happily to kindly help me, I jumped out and startled her. I thought it was fun, but she didn’t. I don’t think she wanted to help me as much in the future.
She and I often played together. When we later moved into a different apartment, we enjoyed playing with toy cars and digging in the dirt together. We built with Legos, played Monopoly, and played Mario Party together. I once dared her to jump out of the window of our second-story apartment. Even as an adult, I would need to think and prepare for such a jump. However, she did it. She injured her back or hips in that incident, although I don’t know how badly. Unfortunately, I didn’t really acknowledge her accomplishment. Among my childhood moments, that is one that I regret not acting differently. I wish I had acknowledged her bravery.
We often went out to a family restaurant called Shari’s. I usually ordered the turkey sandwich. However, I was a hungry boy, so while my parents talked and waited for the food to come, I would go under the table to look for gum. I chewed the gum I found under the table. Of course, the older gum was too hard and difficult to pull off with my weak boy fingers. Fresh gum was easier to pull off and tasted better. My mom was not happy to find me chewing on second-hand mystery gum.
That wasn’t the only questionable food I put into my mouth. My little sister and I found a candy bar abandoned outside one time. Mom caught us eating the parts that the ants hadn’t started on yet. She wasn’t happy about that, either.