I was only 5 years old, but I remember everything about the incident with startling clarity. I was a child who never did anything wrong — not intentionally, anyway — but I was about to do something destructive. And I never could explain why I did it.
We lived on Holly Hill Drive in Atlanta. My mother had some friends over to the house one morning. They were in another part of the house, having coffee and the sort of conversation which bores little boys. I was alone in the living room. It was fairly dark.
I felt deeply unhappy and alone.
Without any conscious thought, I picked up something sharp. I went to an expensive piece of furniture — a dark mahogany console into which our stereo was built — and I carefully marked a large “X” onto the polished wooden lid.
That ugly damage was a part of my childhood from then on. It couldn’t be repaired and I saw it every time we played music. But I was always baffled about why I did it.
In the last 10 years or so, I‘ve finally figure out what happened. It wasn’t rational. I wasn’t really trying to cause trouble. I just wanted my mother to look at me. My unhappy little heart was crying out for her attention.