In 1972, after spending five years oversees, my wife and I went back to Irving. I didn’t recognize my hometown; it had grown so much that the old familiar landmarks had been overshadowed by the new. (It didn’t help that my parents had moved.) In just five years my childhood landscape had disappeared, except in my brain.
Since then I have toured the old neighborhood, seen the house we lived in, but it didn’t look the same as I remembered. Trees had matured the same as I had. There were houses falling down by then. As a child, my world had been smaller (because I could ride around it by bicycle) than when I bought my car and my girlfriend lived in Dallas (even that world was smaller than when I left for college, and my circumnavigating the globe dwarfed that). Similarly, as my world expanded, my old neighborhood became smaller, or at least it seemed so to me. And that really forced to me to think about where I came from and the people around me then. What were their stories? Where were they? And what had happened to them?
It wasn’t until much later than 1972 that I became interested into putting the pieces together. And when I did I remembered bits and pieces of things that I had heard, often in passing, and had been hushed up. That’s what I have written about. I still don’t have any of the details of many of these things, things such as a possible murder and almost certainly incest. And many other secrets. The first time I wrote about Bobby I didn’t tell anybody that the play was about him; but people who knew him and saw the play instantly knew what I had done. In my most recent play called DADDY’S PARTY (about a family torn apart by physical and sexual abuse), as a side-story I used the drowning of Bobby’s sister, which one of my sisters said (she said) was a case of murder. My sister pointed a finger at Bobby’s sister’s husband, a prominent criminal lawyer who reportedly said he knew how to get away with murder. He therefore had become part of my landscape and fair game. He’ll never know he’s in my play; I don’t know the guy, and I’m sure he doesn’t know about me. My ignorance of the true story helped me out. It gave me freedom to make most of it up.
My childhood was rich, bright and dark, with incidents and people I can continue to write about. Your childhood is just as rich, bright and dark, which may seem very obvious, and it is. But when I was looking for something to write about, I didn’t immediately go to Irving. There are obvious reasons now why I didn’t want to. Some things are still too hard to face and raw for that. However, the further I move away, the braver I seem to get. Who knows? Maybe one day soon…