Wisdom and enlightenment come from many experiences, even from growing up in a funeral home in a crumbling antebellum mansion in the Deep South. My father was off at The War, my grandmother stone deaf, my mother stone drunk.
The house, as well as the family itself, was a stage setting for my imagination. My little sister and I were not alone: there was a houseful of ghosts that came out from the shadows on the walls. My sister and I tried to keep one another sane amidst the daunting realization of death. Together we experienced the inescapable fragility of life. We all share it, and it scares us. We have no way to overcome it except to share it.
Our world was macabre. Our closest reality connection was the movie house a few blocks away. There the simplistic, cartoonish world of absolute good and evil was replaced by curiosity and fascination about the mysteries of real people, inside and out. My sister was my only audience as I told my stories. I tried, through my story telling, to make the stories alive and vivid, as if in technicolor and stereophonic sound.
I wanted to be a movie star, but I looked less and less like Clark Gable by the time I was 10. Mother's Cousin Charles lived in Hollywood. According to family legend, he won the 1920 Pentathalon, the Metropolitan Opera Auditions, and a Rhodes Scholarship. He came to see us once. He showed me a picture of himself dancing with Shirley Temple. He was charming; we gave him bus fare back to California. Maybe I could make movies.