Posts Tagged With: Autobiography

The Whimsical World of T.L. Gray – The Story – My Story – Chick-O-Sticks, Sunkist and Gas Lines

The Story, My Story, Chick-O-Sticks

In life, what you really want will never come easy.  It is full of chaos and a series of moments.  Some days it seems nothing happens. Other days it seems to be filled with more than I can bear.  Some days I feel I can conquer the world and nothing is impossible. But on those “other” days, I fight just to breathe from the weight of the pressure. Somewhere in the middle is the truth. Within those days is where memories are made, nightmares are hidden, hopes are born, love blooms, and dreams are dreamt.

One of those moments that stand out in my mind is an everyday moment. It’s nothing big or tragic, only a simple amber moment in the middle of black period. It’s a sense-memory moment, one where you smell something, taste something, or see something that makes you think of something else, or takes back to a time and place in your amber-colored past. Have you ever wondered why memories are sometimes colored in amber?  I wonder sometimes if that’s a product of our cinematic age, or vice versa.  Anyway, one of those sense-memories has captured a simple day in my chaos-ridden past. It seems to be a good day, a simple day in the life of the early 80’s. This memory is often triggered by Chick-O-Sticks, Sunkist and gas lines.  Come along for the ride.

Silver squiggly lines snaked across the pavement on Highway 1485, just past the bridge that crossed over the San Jacinto River, in New Caney, Texas. It was hot outside and extremely humid.  I wore a flowered sundress, which wasn’t normal for me being as I was the biggest tomboy around. I usually sported shorts, tank tops, flip-flops (if I wore shoes at all) and had my long, brown hair in a ponytail.  But this day I had on a sundress and sat in the back of a Chevy Malibu in a long line at the neighborhood gas station.  The windows were rolled down and I sat with the door opened, staring at the mirage on the pavement. It seemed sitting in a long gas lines was one of the weekend neighborhood get-togethers.  Everybody was there, friends, neighbors and strangers.  New Caney was about a half-hour north of Houston and Trinity Bay at Galveston Beach just along Interstate 59.  It wasn’t a strange site to see cars loaded down with surfboards waiting in the gas lines with everybody else.

On this particular day, sometime in the summer of 1980, I was nine years old, the Beach Boys’ Good Vibration played on the radio, and I was eating Chick-O-Sticks and drinking an orange Sunkist soda.  It was a full time job saving up and scrounging for change for my weekly indulgence as we waited in the long gas line.  I dug in couches, checked ashtrays and floorboards in cars, phone booths, and under the washing machines at the laundry mat just to have the $0.75 cents I needed. My drink cost $.50 and the Chick-O-Sticks were $.05 each and I always had to have five of them.

This was a time right before my mom starting getting sick and losing her ability to walk to Multiple Sclerosis.  She was so young and vibrant and very sociable.  I can still see her standing in front of the Malibu, talking to some people standing outside their Volkswagen, smoking a joint.  She wore cut-off blue jeans, had a bikini tank top, and wore a big sun hat.  I wonder if that’s why I like big hats. I never thought about that.  I remember her smile, she had s distinct smile. I see that smile sometimes in the mirror or in my selfies, complete with the gap between my two front teeth.  My mother had that same gap, the same high apple-round cheeks, and the same thin lips. I look a lot like my mother, at least how she looked then in my memory.  Our differences are her long, thick, dark hair.  I always envied her hair, full of body, wavy, and beautiful. I have baby-fine, straight, limp hair.  This day she wore it in braids that hung down the side of her face beneath her straw beach hat.  She was dancing.  She was laughing.  She was so full of life and energy.  My mother was beautiful when she smiled.

My mother didn’t smile often in my memories and maybe that’s why this one is so special to me. Life was hard at this time, the economy was bad, and my dad wasn’t around for a while. I think this was a time he was away in jail. It didn’t matter we were poor. It didn’t matter what struggles we faced.  It was the weekend and I was happy to be sitting in that gas line, listening to the Beach Boys on the radio, eating my Chick-O-Sticks, and drinking my cold, orange, Sunkist, in my summer dress.  Every time I hear that song, see Chick-O-Sticks in a store, or Sunkist I am instantly teleported to that time and place in history.  Life is hard, and while some days are battle days, other days are Sunkist days.  No matter how nasty, mean, and sick my mother became, that’s not how I want to remember her. I’m hoping wherever she is now in whatever afterlife exists, she’s dancing around in cut-off shorts, a bikini tank top, with braids and a sunhat, and has a big, beautiful, gap-toothed smile on her face.

This is the story. This is my story.  This is my life.

Till next time,

~T.L. Gray ©2017

Categories: author T.L. Gray, Dream, Dreams, Faith, family, friends, Musing, Philosophy, relationship, Relationships, respect, Spiritual, T.L. Gray, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Whimsical World of T.L. Gray – The Story – My Story – Meeting God

 

The Story, My Story, Meeting God

Everyone has their own journey, their own experiences, and their own meeting God moments.  As a human being, there comes a time in our lives when we face our mortality and understand that our time and presence is limited on this rotating rock.  We finally see how small we are compared to the vastness of the universe. Or we finally understand the physics that the world doesn’t revolve around us. Yet “our” worlds do revolve around us, we are at the center of it, and everything that happens to us or comes from us, stems from the center of our being.  We don’t experience what’s going on across the universe – only what is within our scope, our reach, and our influence.  Some of us have a very limited reach, while others have a vast one, but we all have one, even if it’s only within ourselves.

I’ve heard the name of God my whole life. Most often in a damning expression when something went wrong or someone was angry, or when danger was present, which was during most of my childhood.  God was damned about every four to five words that escaped the cigarette or joint-ridden mouths of my parents. The concept that while God gave life to all things, my parents were ultimately responsible for my birth, and they alone had the right to take that life from me should they choose. I do believe the words were, “I brought you into this world, and if I damned-well please, I’ll take you out of it.” Have you really thought about the phrase ‘damned-well’?  That’s an oxymoron.  Nothing damned is well.

I’ve had a few meeting God moments, but one stands out in particular.  It wasn’t when I died after being attacked by a Doberman Pincher at age 5, or when I rode on top of a car through a barbed-wire fence, or when I fell off the back of a pick-up and got ran over, or any of those life-threatening moments. No, Meeting God moment that sticks out to me was a happy moment, a peaceful moment, a vision of beauty and grace, surrounded by nature and probably one of the first instances of human love.

I was about five years old. From my life time-line, this was some time after the burned-down house, the place where my little yellow canopy bed was destroyed and where I was attacked by the dog following my fifth birthday, and some time before we moved to Texas where I started Kindergarten, so sometime before my 6th birthday.  We lived on what my parents refer to as ‘the farm’.  I’m not sure what the farm really looked like because my memories are brittle pieces. I do remember some scenes, such as a log shack with a fold up cot me and my brothers would play in, until we got bed bugs.  This is the place I learned about chiggers, muddy wells, horses, and how to hoe a vegetable garden, and the first time I heard the name William Smith.  I’m still not sure who he was, only that he was on the farm with my family, had dark-curly hair, and couldn’t ride a horse.

Next door lived an old black couple. I wish I could remember their names, but I can’t.  I do, however, remember their hands, and their smiles, and their chickens, and their red-painted barn.  I remember happiness riding on the back of an old Chevy pick-up truck, (my father hated Fords – so it isn’t ironic that I grew up loving them) through bumpy, dusty, red clay dirt roads and mazes of corn. To this day I still love riding down winding dirt roads among corn fields. Our old neighbors had a bunch of chickens that ran around the yard. I loved chasing them, feeding them, picking their eggs, and then running from them as they chased me back.  It was carefree fun. It was a moment I got to just be kid. I didn’t have many of those moments, but that was one of them.  The old lady, who I will call Henrietta, told me stories about the farm, about her animals, about love, and about God.  I remember her telling me that God was watching me, and watching over me, and sending angels down to protect me. It as a nice thought because I always felt danger.

I remember my Meeting God moment.  I was lying in the deep green grass next to Fred and Henrietta’s red barn.  A tin pail sat beneath a water spigot that dripped crystal drops in a constant rhythm, creating a harmony with the universe, with the birdsong, with the wind that swayed the tops of trees.  It was like the universe in that moment was singing a universal song and they had allowed me to hear them, to see them worshipping in harmony with the sun, the grass, the wind, the trees, the air, the animals, all of life and all of nature, and even with a little five-year old girl lying in the grass, touching their cool with the tips of her little fingers.  I turned my head to the side and watched a tiny ant meander through the forest of blades and wondered if he knew he was being watched, if he realized how small he was to the world I knew? Wondered if this was how God watched over me? Then I looked into the sky above me, realized how small I was in the universe, and tried to imagine the world beyond the clouds, beyond space, beyond everything – not in distance, but in reality, beyond deeper than what we could see, and wondered if that’s where God lived and if he could see me on this side of the veil, to see little ol’ me lying in the grass. I can still feel the warm tears slide out the corners of my eyes and trickle down the side of my face as I yearned to know THAT God.  Not the god of my father, not the god that damned everything, not the god that people were killing for, but the God that all the universe was apart, the God that watched over me and sent his angels to protect me. I wanted to know him with all of my being, all of my heart, and all of my hope. I believe I met God in that moment. I believe that He heard me, and He touched me, and He smiled because He loved his creation, and his creation loved him back.

After that moment there would be many angry times, hurt times, and lots and lots of doubting. There still are because life is hard, it is complicated, and it’s formed with many different levels and layers. But, anytime I stray too far from my faith, I’m always drawn back to that moment, back to that Meeting of God, and I’m reminded of that experience and my faith is restored. I still have lots of doubts. I still believe with my whole heart that we’ve got it all wrong, for the most part, when it comes to God. I hate religion.  I hate the things men do in the name of God. I hate the way humanity treats one another.  But, sometimes I get a glimpse of the beauty of nature, of the universe, and even of humanity and am reminded that God is love – and love (not the world’s version of love, but pure love) is not of this world, is not of nature, but it is something more, something beyond the veil, something I can’t really describe because it must be experienced to understand.  I’m never afraid to meet God, but of man I am terrified.

The Farm was a brief happy moment in my life.  I always think of it with a smile every time I smell burning wood, or see a corn field, or a red barn, or chickens, or a tin pail, or a water spigot, or a horse.  Many nightmares follow the Farm, but that’s another part of this story. This is where I met God.

This is the story. This is my story.  This is my life.

Till next time,

~T.L. Gray ©2017

 

Categories: author T.L. Gray, Blog Post, Faith, family, friends, Health & Fitness, Hope, Hurt, Independence, Inspirational, Instructional, Life, love, Muses, Musing, Philosophy, relationship, Relationships, Spiritual, T.L. Gray, Writing | Tags: , | Leave a comment

The Whimsical World of T.L. Gray – The Story – My Story – My Play Time

The Story, My Story, My Play Time

While my childhood is riddled with lots of darkness, it’s also filled with lots of adventure and play time.  My imagination may be the cause of my greatest pains, but it’s also the source of my greatest joys.  Despite the realities of my situation, when left alone, I was a happy kid.  My happiest memories are playing in the woods across the street from my house in New Caney, Texas.

I lived at the end of Idlewild Road on a half-acre lot in what started as a two room shack with no running water or indoor plumbing.  A man named Greg from Wisconsin lived next door and the Janosek’s lived on the other side, the Stowe’s lived across the street.  Greg was a novelty, having come from a place that made me think of stinky cheese and maple syrup.  Listening to him talk about how his family harvested the sap from maple trees shed a positive light to a name I had been given and would come to hate.  The Janosek’s were everything I wanted and hated because they had what I didn’t have – two parents that worked ‘real’ jobs and a little girl that played with Barbie dolls, wore pretty little dresses, and had birthday parties, a beautiful yard of green manicured grass, and a vegetable garden.  The Stowes had about dozen dirty little children with elderly parents that often ran wild and free. We had a dozen pit bulls and a yard full of broken-down cars, and a long list of Mexicans and Rednecks coming in and out on a regular basis as my dad started working his way up the ranks with the cartel.

Though I could see the reality of my situation, I also dreamed of escape.  That house of danger became my playground.  The top of the outhouse became my castle’s keep, the fence my city walls, the driveway my drawbridge. The ditch, filled with tadpoles and crawfish when it rained, became my moat teaming with monsters.  The roads were to the paths to other kingdoms, and the woods, oh, the woods became my refuge, a place I got lost for hours, where I could run among the animals, swing from the, and build  places of safety and solitude where I could escape, where I could hide.  In my woods I wasn’t Sap, the drug-dealer’s daughter. I was a warrior, a king.  I never played a princess, because I didn’t believe in being rescued.  I was Robin Hood, I was Lancelot, I was Elliot, I was Luke Skywalker, I was Wonder Woman, I was Evel Knievel, I was MacGyver, I was Magnum P.I., I was Remington Steele, I was  Three-Eyed Willie, and the Three Musketeer’s, and then I was all the characters I began to create.  I ventured to the Island of the Magic Apple Tree, Magic Island.  This is where Lemuria and Montes Lunae and my Necromancers – Gabriel, Azrael, and Sybil Claire were born.  These were the beginnings of my stories, and the expressions my imagination.

My play time was my freedom; freedom from chores, freedom from responsibilities, freedom from pain, from abuse, from smoke-filled back rooms and mid-night visits.  I fell in love with Superman, wanting more than anything for him to come out of the sky and fly me away.  No one could hurt him. No one could force him to do what he wanted. He had no parents. He had no siblings. He had amazing powers and strength.  I loved him and Jesus, because I needed to be saved.  Neither saved me; I learned how to save myself.

This is the story. This is my story.  This is my play time. This is my life.

Till next time,

~T.L. Gray ©2017

Categories: author T.L. Gray, Dreams, Fairy Tale, Faith, family, friends, Hope, Hurt, Independence, Inspirational, Instructional, Life, Muses, Philosophy, T.L. Gray, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Whimsical World of T.L. Gray – The Story – My Story – Introduction

Introduction

Since I was born I have died twice, lived three lives, fell in love with four men, and am known by five different names. I’ve danced the halls of a Spanish hacienda, and shivered in the dark corner of a run-down shack, hung every holiday decoration in American suburbia, and been so hungry I couldn’t eat. I’ve protested for peace and marched for war, rescued sex slaves, and fed the poor. I’m famous to some and a nobody to others. I’m greatly loved and easily forgotten. I’ve been praised by thousands, but damned by even more. But who cares about all that? I was born alone in this world, and alone I’ll leave it. I’ve come to realize that I live or die in every moment. Let’s just say I’ve had a few moments. Hell, at times I’ve done both simultaneously, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

This particular story, my story, begins on a hot July afternoon in a southern hotbed filled with hippies handing out flowers of free love, or embittered in a battle of protests for everything from women’s liberation, to civil rights, to war and draft-dodging. Indian Reservation by the Raiders played constantly on the radio, and President Richard Nixon was neck-deep in the Vietnam conflict. In the maternity ward of the Dekalb Medical Center in Atlanta, a young couple was heard screaming at each other down the hallway, fighting over what to name the quiet sleeping baby girl being carried in the arms of an elderly white-haired lady to the nurses’ station.

“Damn it, I’ve already told you, woman, her name’s going to be Rebekah Lynn!’ shouted the red-hair, freckled-face blind man at the young woman lying in the hospital bed. In one hand, he held tightly to the reigns of German shepherd service dog, whose silvered tags glinted with the name Fritz, and in the other clung tightly to a little boy with bright copper-red hair.

The young mother, no more than sixteen, started crying. “But, I want to name her Laura Lynn after Laura Ingalls Wilder, my favorite character from that book I read to you.”

The two continued to argue over the name, their voices filling the hall where the little old woman finally made her way to the counter at the nurses’ station. She looked down at the young, black nurse busily scribbling on her clipboard. “You were in there when my granddaughter was born, weren’t you, child?”

The nurse looked up, glanced down the hall toward the yelling couple’s room, and then smiled at the white-haired lady. “Yes, ma’am, I believe I was.”

“What’s your name, honey?” The old woman rocked the baby girl in her arms.

The nurse pinched her brows together, but finally answered after a few seconds, “My name’s Tonya.”

The little old lady quickly slapped the paper on the counter and started scribbling on it with one hand while she held the sleeping baby girl in the other. After a few seconds she waved it to the nurse. “Now you just go right on ahead and submit that information now before those two get finished.”

The young nurse took the paper and looked down at it. It was the little girl’s birth certificate, and hand-written on the first line was the name Tonya Lynnette.

The nurse smiled up at the little old lady and then stamped the certificate with the notary seal, and that was how I got my first name, Tonya.

It’s ironic. My parents were fighting over the names of a Jewish matriarch and an author of a book, and my grandmother named me after a nurse, a care-taker, someone that helps and nurtures others. All three fit. They sort of define me in many ways. Sadly, my family never called me by my given name, and most of my relatives don’t even know my real name, nor did the grandmother who gave it to me. Tonya means “priceless, without praise.” That too is prophetic and quite ironic.

I wish I could tell you that day was a day for celebration and marked the beginning of a wonderful life, that it was a beautiful, loving, bright story, full of inspiration and love, but it only marked the first of many dark days. Nevertheless, it’s an interesting tale; a roller-coast ride filled with many hills and valleys, twists and turns. You might want to grab hold of the safety bar before we get started. There will be moments that will surprise you, cause your stomach to ache, and have you feeling scared, even perhaps terrified; disbelieving the world can be so cruel. But there are other moments that will take you to the top of the world and have your heart soaring as your hair flaps in the various winds of love, hope, and joy. That’s life, real life. It’s not always a happy story, and not everyone gets a happy ending. It’s messy, complicated, and filled with real moments of good and bad. You can’t really appreciate one without the other. So, let’s go. I’m inviting you into my story. You’re not going to like everything, but my greatest hope when you reach the end (that is… if I can make it to the end), is that you find a little bit of understanding, that your perception of the world and the people in it change just a little. There’s evil in the world, real evil. There is also pain, real pain. But, there’s also good out there, and love, real love. So, come on, let’s go.

Till next time,

~T.L. Gray ©2017

Categories: author T.L. Gray, Hope, Hurt, Inspirational, Instructional, Life, love, Musing, Philosophy, relationship, T.L. Gray, Writing | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

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