He was closer to his mother when he was a boy. The father could not put him to sleep; only she, the soft love of her soft voice reading. As she spoke the stories, he forgot to be afraid of shadows. He found the enchantment of other worlds: a cabin in the prairie with a china lady on the mantle; a little island out over Canada where the roads were red and the gables green.
The boysome, bounding bravery of others did not come easily to him. His voice was gentle, his brown eyes shadowed. Early on in his childhood, he found a dread of school. Other children sensed something about him was different. The questions in their faces humiliated him and when they found the words that fit, if clumsily, their savagery cleaved him from any sense of belonging. The world at school was terrible to him. Had he been able to disappear into it, had he a talent for that, he might have slipped through the years less scathed.
In his fear, he was friendless, except that he had his mother. She forgave him his fears, by and large, even if she couldn’t pry the cause of them from him. It made sense that she understood him. She was a nervous wreck herself: afraid of spiders, big open spaces and stairwells. In their little ranch house with the yellow walls and the low ceilings, they were safe for a long while. Then she began to fear crossing the bridge between the house and town. It began to imprison them.