I also can't really remember my parents being married, although they were, once upon a time. But they divorced right around the time I graduated diapers. Living with my dad and stepmom was tense, to say the least. Why I stayed as long as I did is a story for another time.
There wasn't much chance for R&R on the old homestead, except according to schedules handed down to my stepbrother, David, and me: after chores—consisting mostly of tending our farm animals—before he and I left for school in the morning, then again when we arrived home in the afternoon, and once more between dinner dishes (though we called the evening meal "supper" in Indiana) being washed, dried, and put away, and tending to the animals yet again at night. And on the weekends, after the delightful job of shoveling shit out of the rabbit hutch, mowing the lawn (in the summer), and helping either my dad or my stepmom, Rose, with some new project or another. But I digress.
I remember going to visit my mom on some of those weekends. I and my little brother, Tracy, who had opted to live with her, would stay up late into the wee hours, watching Tales from the Tomb and the Creature Feature on a little black and white TV. Mom would poke her head into the bedroom a couple of times and tell us we should be getting to sleep soon. We'd say okay, then forget completely once the next movie came on--The Wolfman, Dracula, Frankenstein, or maybe The Invisible Man or Creature from the Black Lagoon. Mom never forced the issue. The next morning, I'd wake up grainy-eyed but content. Even happy.
Those nights, huddled on the bed with Tracy, stuffing ourselves with popcorn or cookies or whatever, with the glow from that little TV making the shadows on the walls dance and caper (because of course the lights were off), well, they were some of the best times of my life. I'm sure I'm not the only one to have such memories.
I recall another occasion, a couple of years later, when I was visiting Mom again. I was in the living room when The Day the Earth Stood Still, the original, came on TV. I hadn't seen it before. I stretched out on the couch and became lost in the story. And all the while, my mother puttered around the house and never bothered me once, never interrupted the movie one time. That was a rare experience for me. I loved her for a lot of reasons, but that day I loved her in a whole new way. Now, whenever I watch that movie again, I always get the warm fuzzies.
I think the lesson of The Day the Earth Stood Still really hit home with me, too, and has stuck with me ever since: that if we don't get our shit together as a species and quit fighting amongst ourselves, then we won't be long for this world. That theme plays out in a lot of fantasy and scifi, another reason I suppose it appeals to me.
Let's face it, though. The main reason I love the strange and unusual is because I just do. It's written into my DNA, like my love for The Strokes, or my disdain for Republicans. Still, the memories of those times with my mother undoubtedly strengthen that bond.
I'm not sure the thing I'm trying to convey here—the intimacy of it—is clear to you, that I'm doing a good enough job. Because memories are such personal things, and when you share them you always lose some of the color in the telling. But writers are supposed to keep those colors bright and those whites white, and I hope I'm at least getting close to the mark.
One thing I can say for my dad, he instilled in me my love for reading. It started off as a punishment of sorts, but it damn sure didn't end up that way. What struck the spark was Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs. After that, I was off to the races. I read everything I could get my hands on, mostly fantasy, scifi, and horror. Who knows, I may not have turned out to be a writer if not for him. So, for that...thanks, Dad. I guess.
My point is, when I watch or read horror, or science fiction, or dark fantasy, I find myself among friends that were with me during the best of times, and that helped me to forget the not-so-good times.
In other words, I'm home.