I was an unattractive and disagreeable child. I hate pictures from that era: the five gazillion freckles, the better-eat-or-the-wind-will-blow-you-away body, like a child of famine, the shy/sullen turning away from the camera at family gatherings, my nose in a book. I like this picture because I looked reasonably happy – I was sitting on a pony, of COURSE I was happy.
Naturally, I grew up. The freckles faded and I gained a figure. I grew my hair down to my waist, heavy and shiny, and I had a ton of boyfriends. But the ugly kid is still there, somewhere.
I read everything. I read adult books, gothic romances and so on, from a very young age. I loved science fiction. I wanted to meet writers, not rock stars. I wanted to meet Robert Heinlein (died before I could) and Harlan Ellison (DID meet him at a book signing). I wrote poetry and short stories, sketched and painted. Everyone told me that I was going to be an artist, so I decided to be a writer. Of course.
I discovered paganism at fourteen, right around the time that my mother became a born-again Christian. Not a good combination. I used to check books on devil worship out of the library, even though I had no interest in them, just so that I could leave them around my room and piss her off.
I showed horses in 4-H and barrel-raced in rodeos. I had a buckskin quarterhorse mare named Powder who was an amazing barrel racer. I had to keep her back to the starting line until we were ready to go, as she pounded the dirt with her front hooves, anxious to go.
My father was amazing. My mother was/is amazing, as well, but my memories are clouded by the religious issue. I can’t forgive being told at fourteen that I was evil and bound for hell. Hey, I was an almost-straight A student, I didn’t stay out or get pregnant, I read books! I most certainly did not deserve to be told that I was evil (and my other sisters were saved, which was the other bad part about that). Yes, I have since forgiven my sisters. ;)
Anyway, about my father: my favourite story to illustrate what kind of father he was has to do with rodeos. There is a home movie of me barrelracing. The horse, almost horizontal around one of the barrels, slips and goes down in a cloud of dust. The camera viewpoint goes mad as my father jumps over the railing and down into the arena, then steadies as you see me get up and shakily get back on the horse to finish my ride. He saw that I was alive, and showed me the respect of letting me get on with it. That is my Dad. He taught us to shoot and gut fish and fall off horses. He taught us dirty-fighting and beat us too hard when he was angry (he has the family Irish temper in abundance). He and my mom did without so that my sister and I could have horses and ride in shows, and we never knew how poor we probably really were.
I guess that’s all. I’m glad that I’m here. I’m very thankful for the family that I had, and the great upbringing that my mom and dad gave us. My sisters and I would run wild all day in the woods, coming home only at night. What they gave me is the reason why I am who I am today.
Be brave. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Don’t play the game unless you are going to try to win. Always act in such a way that you can be proud of yourself. Be there for your blood, your family and your friends and the people in your life, whatever it takes. Walk tall and don’t be too squeamish to gut your own fish. If your dog has to be put down, you stand there and talk to him until it’s over. Pay your debts and never accept charity.
In other words, try to live up to my mother and father. That’s all.