Occasionally, I will pull out an old photo album, dig out a picture and tell you what it means to me. Maybe along the way you will learn something about the Prodigal Scribe that you didn’t know.
Like this one for example. This picture was taken in 1954, the year of my birth. I would spend a large part of my childhood in this house. To quote lyrics from one of my favorite songwriters, “Some of it’s magic and some of it’s tragic, but I’ve had a good life all the way.” There are relatively few memories of those years spent living here. I’m the youngest of five children born to Tom and Maxine Mills.
By the time they moved into this house, just two blocks off the Atlantic Ocean in Myrtle beach, SC, they already experienced tragedy parents should never have to know. As they were bringing a new baby into the world – me – they were dealing with another young son fighting a losing battle with leukemia. Years before, they lost another son in a tragic accident. I would not know or come to understand until many years later how those unconnected deaths would affect me.
I grew up an only child with a brother and sister. By the time I started school, they were gone, one to the altar, the other to the army. I don’t want to toss around any blame for the things that went on in this house when I was growing up. I was a strong willed child and for various reasons my parents didn’t have a clue how to parent. I can look back today through the eyes of an adult and can see things I was not able to see then. I couldn’t see how damaged my mother was from the loss of two sons. I couldn’t see a father suffering the same loss and dealing with it the only way he knew how, by throwing himself into his work, his friends, and the jug. With clarity of sober eyes I can see the places I went wrong when I hit my early teens and rebellion dogged my every step. I’m not blaming them for the way things unfolded. I look at it today like everything happens for a reason, and in spite of our mutual mistakes, I think I turned out okay.
By the time I hit my early teens, my parents felt that the influence of the beach was the root of my problem. They sold this house and we moved to Alabama. I was not a happy camper and our relationship worsened – my fault, not theirs. It was what it was. I didn’t stay in Alabama long, deciding that I was old enough to take care of myself. I was wrong.
This is that same house courtesy of Google Street View as it stands today. At times through my life I have thought how different things might have been if this had happened this way or that had happened that way. I don’t do that anymore. I believe one of the hardest things anyone does in life is to grow up. I was in my thirties before I started.
But that’s another story…
Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.