Last week I found a journal that I wrote in February, 1992, twenty-three years ago next month. This is how it began:
I have always wanted to be an artist. You know, the kind that paints beautiful pictures with oils or pastels or watercolors. A picture is worth a thousand words. I totally agree.
Alas, I have never managed to connect eye to hand to brush properly. So here we are – with a thousand words. Give or take a few.
You see, I wanted to paint a picture of a particular person in a certain place at a given time. I wanted to capture a feeling in an expression or gesture. I wanted to fix a point and say, here it is. “X” marks the spot. However, that is not to be.
I must do the best I can with what I have. And words are what I know. I have written introductions to tons of unfinished books! This may be, yet, another one.
Be patient. Be understanding. Be kind. I don’t take criticism well.
It just occurs to me I spent my formative years in a rather insignificant period of history. I grew up in the fifties, part of the post-war Baby Boom in this country. My parents were married in May, 1945. I was born promptly eleven months later. Oldest, middle, and baby rolled into only.
The town where I grew up was a small town in East Texas. How small is small? Johnny Carson fans ask. Population 500 – counting dogs and chickens we would laughingly say. Or proudly say…depending on who asked.
Richards, Texas, didn’t rate a dot on most maps of Texas. I found that out later when I moved away and tried to show my friends where I came from. We had one general store where my mother’s mother worked as a clerk. We had two filling stations: Batey’s Phillp 66 and Lenorman’s Mobil. Each was at one end of Main Street.
Main Street was our only paved street. No traffic light, of course. We had Mr. McAfee’s drug store, my granddad’s barber shop and laundry, and a post office. The Haynies had a grocery store and feed store. We had a depot, but no trains stopped there anymore. One passenger train went by every day – the Zephyr. Periodically we had a cafe that was owned and operated by various townspeople at various times. Mr. Bookman had a bank in Richards – briefly. He died. The bank folded. I can’t remember which happened first.
We had one school down the hill from our house. Red brick. Two-story. Metal fire escapes from the second story, complete with bell. I loved the bell – reminded me of pictures of the Liberty Bell. Two grades per room and teacher. Nine kids in my class. My dad was school superintendent. More about that later.
Of course, there was another school: the “colored” school in the quarters. I never went there.
We had two churches in town, the Baptist Church and the Methodist Church. My family was Baptist for the most part, although there was little to distinguish the two. The important thing was that we were not Catholic, as so many of my Polish friends at school were. They all lived on farms and had to drive ten miles to a neighboring town for church. As far as I knew, they never missed church.
And fifteen years later, Deep in the Heart was finished…finally. I took a few more than a thousand words, but once the dam broke, the words spilled out and over and continue to flow.
“X” marks the spot.