Thomas Slatin, July 15, 1981

Minutes of daylight, as the minutes turn into hours, is the parlance of our time. Everytime I look in the mirror, I see myself staring right back at me; a fleeting glimpse of myself going round and round on a carousel cusp of why.

I will never understand why my parents moved me around a lot. I was around eight years old when my parents moved me out of my birth place of New York City, and I had to change schools for the first time; I was in third grade. After grade seven, my parents moved me to a different school where I completed eighth grade. Grades nine through twelve were spent at boarding school, which I absolutely despised.

Life was supposed to be so easier when I was young.  It wasn’t.  I never thought I would ever see the day when I would be forced to trade my childhood heroes for ghosts. I sometimes dream from time to time, of days long ago, straight line from the days when I was still very young.

Thomas Slatin, NYC

My childhood was filled with a lot of happy times, though well hidden was the abuse, neglect, abandonment, and molestation at the hands of others outside my family, that nobody ever talked about. Whenever I spoke up, it was often dismissed as if I was making up a story; I was oftentimes the child ignored.  As the emotional scars finally became too much for me to bear, I became complacent in the notion that I am simply mean to those who love me.

My parents had very high expectations of me. When I was very young, my parents would often tell me that I should be productive instead of having fun and simply being a child. After giving me a list of respectable career choices, they would ask me what career I wanted to pursue. Being a writer was my lifelong passion, for which Charles Kuralt and Allen Ginsberg often suggested that I pursue as my life’s work.  As far as my parents were concerned, this was clearly never an acceptable answer, as they would dream of me becoming a doctor.

Asking a child what they want to be when they grow up is very limiting, as it narrows down the possibilities to career opportunities. The better question is to ask a child who they want to be and what they dream of doing with their life. I didn’t care much about having a glamorous career or of being famous; I just wanted to be happy, to be successful at something I enjoyed, and to belong.

I spent many hours in my parents back yard, gravitating around a large maple tree in the center of the yard.  The tree itself was a focal point in my childhood.  My friends and I would take turns climbing the tree and sitting within its massive branches.  Later on the tree would host a homemade rope swing.  And then finally, it provided a quiet spot for me to write in my notebooks.  It’s not the locations that filled me with love, it was the people who were there with me that made these places truly special.

It has been decades since my birth, yet it seems that my mind was always troubled with the emptiness and feeling that I simply didn’t belong. Despite making friends, growing close to them and inevitably pushing them away when I felt as if I were growing too close.

I can be brave, I can be intense; I can be the hero, the faithful friend that everyone calls upon in time of need.  But I sometimes get tired, and I sometimes get weak.  I get sad and I don’t speak.  I can get so upset that I take out my upset on those closest to me.

I have apologized to almost everyone I know, at least once.  I recently made a promise that with the days still left, those who love me will always get nothing less than my very best.

I recently told an old friend how much they truly meant to me growing up, and how they were my childhood hero. I remember how absolutely beautiful it was to sit on their couch and cry in front of them for the first time. Despite having friends that truly care for me, I never felt as if I ever belonged growing up. For years and years I roamed, trying to find a place where I thought that I might belong, though I was unsuccessful and never ended up staying anywhere for very long.

Thomas Slatin - Hobart Fire Department EMT Firefighter - 1999

Every person is a gift, and as such are so much more than their jobs, their possessions, or bloated bank accounts. It seems the more we take, the less we become; the fortune of one can only equate with less for some. Love, the greatest thing in life, and are the feelings of the heart.

When I was a child, and later on as an adult, I would often ask myself if there would ever come a day when I would finally belong.  As the years went by, I longed to belong to something.  Anything.  When I didn’t find that ever elusive feeling of belonging, the question of belonging became an even greater issue.  The single most important question in my mind was the one without any answer.

It came upon me like a ghost in the night, scary at first then comforting, much like the feeling of a thousand hugs when suddenly I realized, I belong. I thought of a scream, but instead slowly whispered to myself, I belong, followed by a single tear of joy which slowly ran down my cheek, a feeling of calm. Calm. Belong.

Colophon
The images used in this piece came from my family photo archive.

Asides
It Came Without Warning | The Fear I Cannot Hide | Generation Gap | Keyframe | A Typical Friday’s Child | Life Is Full Of Questions And It’s Tearing Me Apart

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