Friday, April 28, 2017

Shaping Clay

Some primitive cultures believe that the gods shaped Man from clay before breathing life into him.
I think there also might be something to be said for the idea that we are also, when we’re born, the equivalent of cosmic Play-Doh, and who we turn out to be is the result of how we are shaped by the events and circumstances of our lives.

Looking back, I can remember a number of incidents from my childhood which, simply because they’re still remembered after all these years, mean they had to have contributed to who Roger and Dorien are today.

Not surprisingly, most of them took place when I was very young, though I have difficulty now pinning down exactly how old I might have been at the time of each incident. The earliest was when I was old enough to have a tricycle. My parents had called me in for supper (we had “supper” in those days…“dinner” only came with sophistication). I left my tricycle on the sidewalk, and as we were eating, I heard the little bell on the handlebars ringing. I told my dad that someone was stealing my tricycle, but he had not heard the bell and refused to let me go outside to check on it. When I was able to go out, of course the tricycle was gone, and I resented my dad deeply for not having let me go out and save it. And I am ashamed to say that I think this single incident influenced my relationship with my dad from that moment on.

A second incident, about the same time, occurred while I was visiting my grandmother, who lived near a city park. While no one was watching me, I decided to go to the park alone. As I was walking through an underpass beneath the street on which my grandmother lived, I was approached by a man (which at my age could have been any male 15 years old or older). To this day I remember what he said to me, and though it is admittedly rather embarrassing to repeat, it has stuck with me all these years. (A word of caution here: I’m not going to sugar-coat this, so you can skip to the next paragraph if you’re easily offended.) He said, “Let me put my weenie in your can.” It wasn’t until years later that I understood what he was saying, but I remember thinking it was a very strange thing to say. At any rate, I ran off and don’t know if I told my parents or not. But I remembered it. I still remember it, possibly because it was the first time I was aware that there were others like me: males who liked males. He was not the kind of man of whom homosexuals can be proud and, like most pedophiles, it’s unlikely that he was in fact gay.

One incident which strongly did have an effect on the formation of my character occurred when, maybe about 7 years old, I was walking down the sidewalk, happily singing Christmas carols at the top of my voice. A passerby said: “Why are you singing Christmas Carols? It’s summer.” I don’t know why, but that comment so shamed me that I have never since sung aloud other than as part of a group.

Probably one of the most significant of my character-developing incidents happened when I was five, and my parents and I were living in a 14-foot trailer in Gary, Indiana. The trailer park was located next to a railroad track, but separated by a sloping ditch. Whenever we kids would hear a train coming, we’d run to the embankment to wave at the engineer, who always waved back. One day I heard the train coming before the other kids did, and I ran to the ditch and plopped down on the ground just below the rim of the embankment. I had my left leg out to one side and watching for the train.

A little girl from the park came running up and, not seeing me, jumped down the embankment, landing on my extended leg, breaking it severely just below the hip. I of course immediately began screaming and the little girl, terrified, ran off. My mother, hearing me, came running over. And seeing me all by myself maybe three feet down the side of a grassy embankment, she naturally assumed I had merely fallen and was being my own melodramatic self. She knelt down and scooped me up, one arm around shoulders and the other under my rear end. Unfortunately, in so doing, the weight of my unsupported left leg forced the broken bone out through my skin.

The doctors at the hospital to which I was taken told my parents that the break was so severe that my left leg would probably be several inches shorter than the right. However, they said, a visiting specialist from Germany was in town. He was scheduled to return to Germany the next day, but he came in and operated, and while I have a long and very noticeable scar, there was no shortening. The doctor left for Germany the next day. This was September of 1938. The doctor was Jewish.

I don’t think that the fact that it was a little girl who had jumped on me influenced my being gay, but it certainly did make me far more cautious of any activity or anything at all that might conceivably cause me physical pain.

Well, there are many more character-shapers in my life, and I may do another blog or two on them in future. But this, I’m sure you’ll agree, is enough for now.
This blog is from Dorien's ebook of blogs, Short Circuits, available from and; it's also available as an audio book from Amazon/ You can find information about Dorien's books at his web site: 

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