Quite often different people I come across commend me on my creative ability to draw and paint. The observer's comments usually include the question "Where did you learn how to draw like that?" I normally tell them some generic answer like "a lot of practice, " but truthfully my response should be "in my miserably boring childhood." However I usually refrain from being that honest to either avoid a weird look or to avoid a lengthy explanation like the one that follows.
Compared to some of the horrible stories of child abuse I've heard, my childhood was a Walt Disney fairytale, but in my own eyes I was an unhappy kid. I was born in 1972, which is the Chinese Year of the Rat (the rat's Chinese characteristic is to scavenge for survival, which is also a part of my personality). From old pictures, my fragmented memories, and tales told by my grandma Mildred, I was close to my parents during my first six or seven years, especially my dad. My dad, Richard, was employed straight out of college as an Aerospace engineer with the Logicon Corporation (where he still works to day). He married my mom, Loretta, (who also became an Aerospace engineer for Logicon) seven years before I was born. My parents fought almost every night as far back as I can remember, and I can still recall covering my ears with a pillow to escape their bickering. I've always sort of believed that it was my mom's fault, possibly because her voice was always the loudest screech I could hear. I know the blame should rest equally between them, but my mother was always so demanding and emotional while my dad was a quiet man who was able to control his anger unless really pushed. I think she was used to a lot of emotions in her past and would intentionally aggravate my dad just to get more of a reaction from him who seemed sometimes to be in an emotional coma.
Despite their fighting, I was at my happiest during those early years because my family still did things together. My parents, my brother Darryl seven years my senior, and I would go on trips to the mountains, the Los Angeles Zoo (at which I still can remember a goat knocking me down and stealing my cookie in the petting zoo), and various theme parks. We watched movies together and attended my brother's little league games where I would run off with this little Mexican boy to play in the huge willow tree next to the snack stand. We lived on Zephyr Street in a nice upper middle-class neighborhood, which was located in a small Los Angeles suburb named Harbor City. I attended Lorenz Hillside, a private school that was only four blocks away, but my parents always drove me to school. The actual known world aside from school when I was six years old began at the street corner one house down to the other end of our block long street and sometimes around the corner where my cousin Jay lived.
Since no one I went to school with lived anywhere near me, my playmates were limited to the children who lived...