In the warm spring before I was born, my mother told me that she would sit on the porch with a washbasin of cherry tomatoes in her lap and eat the entire bowl, staring out onto bleak Tutwiler Street, missing her parents, trying to fit into her new life.
My parents were poor, and during her pregnancy my mother had only two dresses that fit. When I was born, my mom’s younger sister, my Aunt Sylvia, came straight from her high school graduation in San Antonio to help out. She said that there was so little money that she had to use her graduation money to pay for groceries.
Everything changed so drastically in the next three years that my parents, only twenty-one and twenty-three years old, must have been dizzy from trying to understand their own lives. Our little family grew quickly. When my mother went to the doctor for her six-week checkup after giving birth to me, she was already pregnant with Kathy, who came along ten months and twenty-three days after me. Cindy was born two years later. Meanwhile, my father had a hit record on his very first release and was suddenly a sensation, performing around the South, gathering fans, including, to my mother’s great alarm, hordes of young women who fawned and swooned from his very first performance at the Overton Park Shell in Memphis. By 1958, my dad, with his sultry good looks, had offers to appear in movies, so we left Memphis for Southern California. Three years later, Tara was born.