Childhood: The Early Years, Part 1
When and where were you born?
I was born on a Wednesday, Oct. 1, 1980 in Memphis, Tennessee.
Was there anything unusual about your birth?
Mama wouldn’t dilate… but I was determined to be born. Eventually, the doctor told Mama that I was coming out that day. Unfortunately, Mama still hadn’t dilated. Mama was resistant to the idea of a C-Section—until the doctor told her that, if they didn’t do a C-Section, I would crush my head in the process of being born. So, she had a C-Section to deliver me.
Also, I had a really big head. I can’t tell you the number of times I was told this by aunts and uncles.
Do you know why you were given your name? Does it have a special meaning?
Tiffany is originally from the Greeks. It means, “God manifests.” I have never understood the concept of how someone with a particular name can meaning something like that. I mean, there are millions of people with the name “Tiffany.” I used to think to myself, “Does God manifest Himself through ALL the Tiffanys in the world but none of the Courtneys?” It just made no sense to me. Also, it made me uncomfortable. Who wants a name no one can live up to?
On the other hand… the older I get, the more comfortable I have become with the name’s meaning. The Bible clearly teaches, after all, that everyone was made in God’s image. This includes Tiffanys. And there are multiple examples in Scripture where God chooses the name of certain people—–He changed people’s names, He instructed parents to give an unborn child a particular moniker so I suppose it’s possible that God “manifests Himself” through people.
The coolest part of my name, though, is how it is spelled.
I really don’t know how my mom came up with the spelling. She says she just liked it. I don’t know what gave her the idea but I am eternally grateful to her for it. Instead of making me feel different or “weird,” the unique spelling ‘i-n-i” made me feel special and just enough different to be unique. I was never teased because of the way I spelled my name; it made me feel special.
What was your birth order among your siblings?
I am the first born, the eldest, by two years.
What stories have you been told about yourself as a baby?
Apparently, I did not cry much. Everyone from both sides of the family has always told me that I was a “good” baby. As I grew into a toddler, I liked playing with dishes, cars, baby dolls and keys.
What are your earliest memories of your childhood?
I have no idea how old I was, only that I was very young. We were staying at a hotel and I had taken my baby doll right outside our room. Sitting on the steps, playing with my doll, I watched a man climb the stairs. Something made me notice that he did not have any luggage, and I found that odd. He walked all the way down the until he would have to turn, then walked back, past me, and walked to the other end. Finally, he came back and asked me if I could “help him find his room.” I remember finding this very odd. Considering I never told an adult “no”, it was extremely atypical of me to “disobey” but I distinctly remember feeling, very strongly, an inkling that told me to go inside. So I did. I got up, went inside and immediately told Mama what happened. She looked out the window of the hotel room and saw the man walking into a room, three doors down from ours. Chills ran through my young body. I clearly remember this event because it was the very first time in my life that I was certain God had protected me. It was the first event that I could point to with certainty in my bones as proof (for myself if no one else) that God was real and He did play an active role in my life.
I also remember going to the Post Office with my grandparents, filling vending machines and washing tables. I would sit at a table there and write in my notebooks, or on the napkins. My sister and I thought it was neat whenever we got to walk through the mail room.
When I was five or six, Grandmama and Papa took me with them on a trip to the Bahamas. It was a cruise and I distinctly remember our room. It was so tiny that the three of us could barely fit. Papa threw a fit because of the size of the room. But what stands out the most about that trip was that, while we were on the deck one day, the side of the ship that we were standing on raised up higher than the other. People started complaining until the captain of the ship came over the loudspeaker and told us that a whale had swam under our ship, but that all was well. I remember bursting into tears and clinging to Grandmama for safety.
What were you like as a child?
This word defines the person Tiffini very well, up until I was a mother myself. I distinctly remember living every day as though I were walking a balance beam. I never, ever dreamed of saying no. Papa used to say that I would do what an adult wanted me to before even being asked to do so. But it was more than just obedience; I was intuitive and my whole mission in life was to prevent catastrophes. Somehow, I believed that the happiness or sadness of our entire family rested on my shoulders. If I did everything I was supposed to do, then peace would be the result. If I disobeyed, or voiced secrets, then the ultimate chaos that surrounded us would be my fault. I truly believed this.
And I was constantly writing.
But I was also stubborn, as my sister will gladly attest.
Do you consider your childhood happy? Why or why not?
There is a great deal of sadness in regards to my childhood. We were eating at a restaurant when I was sixteen with my dad. A week earlier prior to this morning, he had disappeared into thin air, leaving us stranded, penniless and emotionally devastated. My Junior Prom happened to fall the day after he disappeared. Naturally, this meant I did not get to go. Days passed. Then, suddenly, he was back and having breakfast with us. As we ate, he told my sister and I that he was sorry …. but only that he had left when he did. He said, “If I had known when the Prom was, I wouldn’t have left now. I would have waited, or something.” So many pieces of that conversation still haunt me. What I heard was “I’m not sorry I hurt you all by leaving, only that it meant you couldn’t go to a prom.” What I heard was, “I did not know when the Prom was.” Doesn’t every father know when his daughter’s Prom night is? Shouldn’t he? More importantly, shouldn’t the daughter want him to? I lived in great fear when my dad was home; and yet, it always felt like he wasn’t really part of the family, he was just a visitor that would pop in, come to my room at night, and then pop out again in what felt like a never ending cycle. When I think of my childhood, I feel sorry for a blonde head little girl named Tiffini who never learned how to make friends. And my heart breaks for the little girl who laid on a bed with her hand turned to the sky so that God could hold it while she was violated and hurt. My soul aches for the little girl that had to grow up entirely too fast.
In a lot of really important ways, I was very lucky. I had a mother and a sister who never failed to support me, and to whom I was very close. Traveling the world, while very difficult in some respects, meant that I learned to adapt and respect people, no matter from where they came. I think of Fan Fair and playing in the ditch behind my grandparents’ home. I think of the cousins I adored. Overall, while I cannot claim to have enjoyed a truly happy childhood, I can attest to the fact that, no matter what happened, I was surrounded with love; I can attest to the presence of God. I played Nintendo and argued about who got to sit in the front seat of the car with my sister. When we had to drive an old, brown, gosh-awful jalopy of a car to our private school, my sister and I would hide in the floorboards and make Mama park at the church across the road from the school so that no one could see us get out of that terrible junk car. We got to go to Hawaii and we learned to love Gatlinburg. While I cannot claim to have enjoyed a genuinely happy childhood, I can say that I was the recipient of a lucky childhood because, after all, I was loved.
Tell us about your siblings and your relationship with them when you were little.
I was two when Mandi was born. For some reason, I was a little bit scared of this new creature when Mama first came home from the hospital. Grandmama and Papa let me stay at their house for a few nights and I remember sleeping in the easy chair in their room. When I finally went home, though, Mama says I completely soaked in being a big sister, wanting to change her diaper and help feed and play with her.
Mandi and I weren’t much alike as children. She was very active and wanted to do daring and adventurous things. I was a homebody who didn’t want to leave my room. We’re both particularly stubborn so, sometimes, we would butt heads. But, no matter what minor arguments we sometimes engaged in, we were each other’s fortress. When my parents would fight violently, Mandi would come to make sure I was okay. When she couldn’t go to sleep at night, I would lay beside her. I would tell her the story of Rapunzel over and over and sometimes, when she got tired of that story, I would tell her ones I made up spontaneously. When a boy was harassing her in the Art class we shared, I showed up early one day and told the boy that if he didn’t leave my sister alone, not only would I tell a teacher, I would make his life miserable. He stopped bothering her. When I got the first stupid pink rejection slip in the mail that said a publisher wasn’t interested in reading my work, Mandi was the one I cried to.
No one knows you quite like your siblings do. And there really is no one as close to you as your own sister.
Describe your first elementary school. What was your first day there like?
I went to Lighthouse Christian School for my Kindergarten year. My teacher’s name was Mrs. Drungo, and I absolutely loved her. All I remember about my first day was that Mama took pictures of me and that I was nervous. I also remember that I had friends. It was one of the only school years that I enjoyed friends.
Tell us about your least favorite teachers.
My third grade teacher was named Mrs. Davis. Mrs. Davis was, quite possibly, a witch in disguise. The first day of school, she greeted us by informing us that, as we came into the classroom, she wanted to go out the back door. Her point was that we were loud—-what I heard was that she did not like us. Mrs. Davis did not like me. To this day, I do not know why. All I know is that that woman made my school life dreadful.
Luckily, I wasn’t the only one who thought Mrs. Davis’ teaching years should have long expired. I had two friends named Rachel and Shanta. Rachel, Shanta and I decided at lunch one day that we should get Mrs. Davis fired. We thought that if we could just tell the principal all the terrible things Mrs. Davis did to us, she would see that, clearly, this woman didn’t need to be in charge of a classroom. The three of us got ourselves quite worked up. We actually started walking towards the principal’s office to tell her to fire our teacher. I don’t know why, but I was chosen to be the spokesperson. I was to be the one to give our principal an oral list of all our grievances. Fortunately for us, the lunch bell rang before we got to the Office and that sound must have knocked us back to our senses because we turned around and went to class. The principal was never told she should fire Mrs. Davis and we made it through the third grade.
Over than Mrs. Davis, I only had one teacher who I did not like. He was my math teacher in the 11th grade ,which probably explains a lot about why I didn’t like him. This man would stand at the projector and silently work math problems over and over. We were supposed to copy him verbatim in our notebooks. He did not explain what he was doing, or how he was working the problems. He just wrote them down and then worked them on the projector. We copied. This sent me over the edge. Math was my worst enemy; how was I supposed to pass this class if he didn’t even –teach– the material? The real reason I hated him, though, was because he blatantly did not care. When it was time for Parent Teacher Conferences, which took place MONTHS after the start of school, the man did not even know my name even though I had sat quietly in his room since school started. He intimidated me, and I feared him.
Every other teacher I have ever had, I liked.
Did you ever receive an award recognition for a special achievement?
When I was in the 6th grade, I was part of WGLF, which was a student-run news show that was broadcast throughout the entire school every Friday morning. We did breaking news, weather, sports and other stuff. At the end of the year, I was awarded an award for my dedication and work in this program.
I received Student of the Month a few times during my 5th grade year.
My 9th grade year, I was awarded the Who’s Who Among High School Students Award.
My 12th grade year, I was given the Psychology Award from McGavock.
Do you remember the occurrence of any historic events during your elementary school days?
When I was in the 6th grade, there was a Presidential election in which George Bush ran against Bill Clinton. I was one of only a few who voted for Bush during our school election. Everyone else thought Bill Clinton was cute and so they voted for him. I was disappointed when I had to report on WGLF that Clinton had won.
I also remember going to war with Iraq.
Which elementary friends do you remember the most and why?
I had four friends during elementary school. Rachel and Shanta were my closest. I remember talking with them in the bathroom about Chance, the boy that was pretty cute in our class. I also know that we hung out together at recess. We stayed the night at each other’s houses a couple of times. Rachel and I were the closest. When I was in Kindergarten, Lacy and Abby were my friends and I remember playing with them on the school playground.
What were your favorite television shows?
We watched Rescue 9-11 every time it came on and Little House on the Prairie. Those are the only two I really remember, besides the Flintstones.
Did you have any pets? What were they?
We had a host of dogs over the years. My favorite was Lex, a pug. I was very, very sad when we had to leave him behind.
Did you ever have a special place you went to be alone?
I sat squished between the bed and the windowsill. Country Inn and Suites had a window that was designed for you to sit in. I would talk my mom into letting me sleep tucked into the window.