While my childhood is riddled with lots of darkness, it’s also filled with lots of adventure and play time. My imagination may be the cause of my greatest pains, but it’s also the source of my greatest joys. Despite the realities of my situation, when left alone, I was a happy kid. My happiest memories are playing in the woods across the street from my house in New Caney, Texas.
I lived at the end of Idlewild Road on a half-acre lot in what started as a two room shack with no running water or indoor plumbing. A man named Greg from Wisconsin lived next door and the Janosek’s lived on the other side, the Stowe’s lived across the street. Greg was a novelty, having come from a place that made me think of stinky cheese and maple syrup. Listening to him talk about how his family harvested the sap from maple trees shed a positive light to a name I had been given and would come to hate. The Janosek’s were everything I wanted and hated because they had what I didn’t have - two parents that worked ‘real’ jobs and a little girl that played with Barbie dolls, wore pretty little dresses, and had birthday parties, a beautiful yard of green manicured grass, and a vegetable garden. The Stowe's had about dozen dirty little children with elderly parents that often ran wild and free. We had a dozen pit bulls and a yard full of broken-down cars, and a long list of Mexicans and Rednecks coming in and out on a regular basis as my dad started working his way up the ranks with the cartel.
Though I could see the reality of my situation, I also dreamed of escape. That house of danger became my playground. The top of the outhouse became my castle’s keep, the fence my city walls, the driveway my drawbridge. The ditch, filled with tadpoles and crawfish when it rained, became my moat teaming with monsters. The roads were to the paths to other kingdoms, and the woods, oh, the woods became my refuge, a place I got lost for hours, where I could run among the animals, swing from the, and build places of safety and solitude where I could escape, where I could hide. In my woods I wasn’t Sap, the drug-dealer’s daughter. I was a warrior, a king. I never played a princess, because I didn’t believe in being rescued. I was Robin Hood, I was Lancelot, I was Elliot, I was Luke Skywalker, I was Wonder Woman, I was Evel Knievel, I was MacGyver, I was Magnum P.I., I was Remington Steele, I was Three-Eyed Willie, and the Three Musketeer’s, and then I was all the characters I began to create. I ventured to the Island of the Magic Apple Tree, Magic Island. This is where Lemuria and Montes Lunae and my Necromancers - Gabriel, Azrael, and Sybil Claire were born. These were the beginnings of my stories, and the expressions my imagination.
My play time was my freedom; freedom from chores, freedom from responsibilities, freedom from pain, from abuse, from smoke-filled back rooms and mid-night visits. I fell in love with Superman, wanting more than anything for him to come out of the sky and fly me away. No one could hurt him. No one could force him to do what he wanted. He had no parents. He had no siblings. He had amazing powers and strength. I loved him and Jesus, because I needed to be saved. Neither saved me; I learned how to save myself.
This is the story. This is my story. This is my play time. This is my life.
Till next time,
~T.L. Gray ©2017