My father was born on August 08, 1917, in a small town in eastern North Carolina, and my mother was born on February 12, 1923. They both grew up in the same part of the state and eventually met in the 1930s. The two married on September 11, 1939. Having completed the sixth and seventh grades, my parents lived in a time and place when education wasn’t necessary, and a man took a job wherever he could find one. After having several children, my parents moved from eastern North Carolina to a small industrial town located in the central part of the state, known as Burlington. Burlington was known for its cotton mills and textile plants and was home to Burlington Industries.
My father worked for Western Electric, known around the country and the world. Their contracts ensured Burlington’s placement on the “hit list” during the Cold War due to the manufacturing and testing of emerging defense technologies.
My parents already had three boys and one girl by the time I came along. I was born in July 1961. By this time my mother was 38 years old, my father was 44, my oldest brother was 20, and my youngest brother was 7. My sister, who raised me until I was four years old, took care of me while my mother and father worked. She was 13 years old when I was born.
Every summer, when I was a child, my parents planted a huge garden in our backyard. I could remember crawling out of bed in my footed pajamas, sneaking out the back door, and heading straight for the strawberry patch. Wiping the sleep from my eyes, I would sit in the strawberry patch and eat fresh strawberries right out of the garden.
As a young kid, I spent most summers playing in the creek that ran through my neighborhood. I was continually collecting frogs, salamanders, tadpoles, chipmunks, flying squirrels, crayfish, field mice, moles, snakes, and anything else that I could find. I loved spending time in the woods and being around nature. Nature always seemed to communicate with me in unusual ways.
All throughout elementary school and middle school, I landed every lead part in all of the school plays. I could act, I could sing, and I could dance. But all of this changed as I approached high school. My voice broke, and I became very introverted and shy. I was hiding something from the world, so I stayed far away from the spotlight.
Although I grew up Methodist, I attended a nearby Presbyterian Church. None of my siblings went to church, nor did my parents. I guess they had had their fill of church and had gotten that out of their system by the time I was born.
At night I would thumb through my parent’s dictionary and world atlas, and imagine traveling to places all around the United States. I wrote down a list of places that I wanted to see when I grew up.
When I was a teenager, I locked myself in my room, put on an Earth, Wind, and Fire record, turned up the volume as loud as I could, and danced around my room. I loved music and I loved to dance.
My father retired from Western Electric in the early 1970s, and I graduated from high school in 1979. Since my parents didn’t graduate from high school, nor did any of my siblings, my high school graduation was not a big deal to my parents. While most of my classmates went to college after graduation, I was given a choice to either attend a community college or go to work in a factory. I went to a community college for a couple of years and then took a job in a factory, which my father helped me get through a connection he had with one of his ex-coworkers. I worked as a grinder, grinding down parts for an auto manufacturer.
After several months of “grinding,” I decided I needed something more out of life.
Disclaimer: This story is about my connection with Madonna’s music, not Madonna herself. Her public persona is hers and hers alone. At no point during my story was I ever in contact with Madonna, or anyone from her staff. I can’t vouch for Madonna, just as she can’t vouch for me. It’s all about the music.
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