"Mama, Daddy's crazy"-1954 (9-10)

I said to my mother, “Daddy’s crazy.”

 

She replied, “I know.”

 

Summertime. We lived in a rural community called Flatrock outside of Anderson, South Carolina. My father and I were sitting down in the hollow below our home at the picnic table.

 

He told me he had discovered a new idea that was going to change the world for all of humanity. I was so eager to understand his idea. I keep asking him questions for more details. When I couldn’t understand from one side, I would ask questions another way, trying to understand at what he was talking about.

 

Finally, I realized, although he still believed in his idea, whatever it was, it was without foundation. I left my father and went to talk to my mother, who was hanging wet clothes on the line. I said to her, “Mama, I think that Daddy’s crazy.” I was surprised when she replied matter-of-factly, “Yes, I know.” She didn’t say much more than that. 

I forgot what I knew until...

Somehow I forgot this discovery, maybe because remembering it would have made me feel too insecure. I didn’t re-remember it until I was 28-years-old and living in New York City. My father, who, later we believed was bipolar, even though he was unwilling to see a doctor, came to visit me in New York City while in one of his manic states. 

My mother kept everything inside

My mother later told me that when I came to her with my discovery, her first impulse was to drop to the ground and start crying, telling me how hard it was for her to deal with my father and hold the family together. But then she thought to herself, “I can’t do that to a ten-year-old.” 

At the time I thought it made our family sort of special, like in a novel

I remember thinking at the time, “Wow! I’ve got a crazy father. I thought this sort of thing only happened in books.” Somehow it made me feel that our family was special, even in this strange way.

My mother read "Yellow-Dog Dingo" to us

My mother laid on her stomach on the bed, propping herself up with her elbows with a pillow. She read to us an hour at a time. My sister Karen, three years younger, lay to her right, with me on her left.

 

I loved the rhythm and sound of my mother’s voice and daydreamed myself into the storyline and characters. She read from the “Just So” stories of Rudyard Kipling, “How the kangaroo got his tail,” “How the leopard got his spots,” and “How the camel got his hump.” She also read us “Little Men” and “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott. Also "Old Yeller" and “Heidi.”

Childhood hero: "The Phantom"

 

Sunday mornings I rushed to get the cartoon pages from the Anderson, South Carolina newspaper. The newspaper was delivered to our home only on Sundays.