Where I Begin

So I learned cut out the middle man. Make it all for everybody always.
Everybody can’t turn around and tell everybody, everybody already knows. I told them.
Childish Gambino

One of my earliest memories is lying on the ground in my garage and crying. In fact, there’s a pretty good chance it IS my earliest memory.

My parents still live in the same house they have for the past 28 years, so I can go back to that garage any time I want to look at the spot where I lay flat on my back and cried. Not that I remember much, of course. I mean, that memory is me on the ground crying after slipping on a wet spot and hitting my head really hard on the concrete. I don’t recall how old I was. That’s probably understandable.

I like to jokingly blame a lot of things on that blow to the head. Like the weird huge bump on the back of my skull. Or the fact that I often get my words mixed up or jumbled together like I have some sort of speech impediment. Or my absent mindedness. But in all actuality, I got a kiddie-sized concussion and life moved on and it probably didn’t affect anything.

Other than, of course, the fact that one of my earliest memories is lying on the ground in my garage and crying.

Me creeping at Adam's sad birthday
Me creeping at Adam’s sad birthday

I was born in 1988 as the third son to my parents. They were convinced I would finally be the daughter they expected, but I wasn’t. A girl would come, after me, but she sadly wouldn’t ever see this world. That, of course, eventually led to my younger brother Adam being born. Ever since then, that lanky knucklehead has been my favorite person on this planet.

Still #1
Still #1

I was named after my uncle, Richard, which is something I’ve written about before. Everyone in my family goes by their middle names for some reason, so of course that’s why you don’t see me going by The Richard Craven around these parts. My oldest brother, Anthony, told my parents he wanted me to be named Joseph. They had a pattern going of giving us all a family name and a Biblical name, so that would work except for one little snag. You see, my mom’s favorite dog, who my parents had before kids were around, was named Joe.

Thus, I was named after my uncle and the dog.

Well, sort of. Mom agreed to Joseph, but firmly took the stance that I would never, EVER, be known as Joe. Naturally, over the years people would call me that, but I would just have to tell them not to say it around my mom. So keep that mind, guys.

Squirrels get real big in Mississippi
Squirrels get real big in Mississippi

Now, I have a few other childhood memories that I can recall pretty well. I remember playing “James Bond” with my older brothers, where Anthony was James, Nathan was Q, and they said I could be Moneypenny. I had never seen the movies, so I had no idea what they had pulled over on me.

We would keep our “weapons” under The Secret Brick. Our neighbor, Mr. Louie, was an electrician who would always park his massive van slightly off of his driveway for some reason. In doing so, he had run over a small brick and embedded it into the ground. For years, it sat there as a place we could hide our sticks we thought were guns and scraps of paper we said were secret missions.

I recall being six years old and playing on the playground when my mom was enrolling me in school. I was six, but I had done all my first grade stuff at home and didn’t want to repeat it. So after pitching a fit and my mom deliberating the long term effects it could possibly have, we just went for it and I started the 2nd grade. And because of that, I met many friends who I would then go the bulk of life with.

And of course there were the trips to the Pick-er-Pack. It was a gas station right around the corner from the entrance to my neighborhood. On summer days, the four Craven boys would grab a few bucks from our parents and make the walk to the Pick-er-Pack to stock up on Lemonheads, Big League Chew, and Icees. That love for Icees has always stayed with us, along with the memory of all of those walks to the store.

All four. And a girl who snuck in the photo.
All four. And a girl who snuck in the photo.

Over the past three years of blogging, I’ve made it a point to not really talk about myself that much. Sure, I’ll put my thoughts down in a post when I’m trying to figure things out. Or maybe I’ll tell a little anecdote with a punch line or some sort of greater purpose behind it. But I’ve never really wanted to point the attention at myself for any real reason.

So why am I writing this? Truth be told, I have no idea. Maybe it’s the fact that I sit here at the ripe old age of 25 and feel inclined to jot down my memoirs. Maybe it’s that I feel like my life hasn’t gone the way I would have liked it to so I want to review what went wrong.

Or maybe it’s something totally different. Maybe it’s because when I look back on my life, I think about the people in my life and the moments I’ve shared with them. Maybe it’s because I don’t remember certain events when I look back, since I really can’t for the life of me remember when it was my family went to Disney World. But I remember distinctly walking to the Pick-er-Pack or hiding things under The Secret Brick or standing barefoot in the street on a summer day with Adam to see who could last longer. Those things, for better, for worse, or just for stupid, are the things I remember the most.

Before I learned to write, I would scribble lines and pictures on paper and tell my mother exactly what I intended the story to say. I was obsessed with action figures even until I was much older than I should have been, simply because I loved imagining the worlds and situations they would find themselves in. I loved seeing what new invention my little Lego friends would come up with every time I cracked open the box.

We Southerners were born to tell stories. The author and storyteller Rick Bragg once worded it perfectly: “My people have the most beautiful, eloquent way of speech. I come from the knees of the best storytellers on the planet.” Ever since I was young, this was evident in my life. As I’ve gotten older and remember my love of creating stories, it’s those childhood memories that keep me motivated to continue. During times where I want to give up and forget everything and just run away from my life and try to start over sometime, I think back on these stories and my desire to tell them, and that’s what keeps me going.

So why am I writing this? And why will I write most posts just about my life story? Well, maybe it’s because I’ve spent my whole life telling these stories, and I don’t want to stop. Maybe it’s because it’s what I was made to do: meet people, commune with people, remember people, and tell their stories.

And maybe it’s about time I actually told my own story. Maybe I should go back to where I begin: lying in the garage and crying.

And this is what I look like without a beard.
And this is what I look like without a beard.

“Moving in and out, past the fear and the doubt, back to where I begin….”

The title of this post comes from a song by the same name by Johnny Bertram and the Golden Bicycles. You can find their music here.


8 thoughts on “Where I Begin

  1. Well done, Joseph. Maybe hitting your head had positive side effects, too.

    Also…why do you lean so much without your beard?

  2. Is that really a lightbulb shining over your beardless head? Was that the exact moment you had the defining idea to grow a beard?

    Tears also surround my first memory…what happy people we are.

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