I think one thing that was helpful to me as a child was being television-free. My parents didn’t own a television, and I didn’t really have much in the way of toys, either. I drew a lot, and read books, and made my own stuffed animals from whatever was lying around the house. I had imaginary friends, and I spent a lot of time making tiny habitats around the house for miniature people whom I imagined shared the house with us.
My mother went to the Arts Student League and studied with George Grosz, and her parents were also artists. I had access to their boxes of used up coloured pencils, pastels, pads of paper, etc.
At night when other children might have been read aloud to from picture books, my mother and I would lie in the dark and imagine what it must have been like for escaping slaves. In our night-time musings, we imagined we were escaping, running through the woods. Sometimes I had nightmares. I worried a lot about Harriet Tubman, whom I couldn’t grasp was no longer alive.
When we moved to the suburbs of Pennsylvania from NYC, my father commuted back and forth to the city in order to finish his doctorate. My mother, left to her own devices, embraced her inner hippy self. She organised demonstrations against the Vietnam War, and there were parties on our front yard where teenagers burned their draft cards in impromptu bonfires. The neighbourhood teenagers willingly posed nude in exchange for painting and drawing classes which took place in our kitchen and living room. I drew (not very well) from nude models from the age of five or six years old.
When my father returned on the weekends from the city, my mother put all that away, and made applesauce and mayonnaise. She became a model housewife. I am not sure my father was even aware of her escapades.