Ida Mae and Paul Darling are the two people in my life who had perhaps the most profound impact on my mastery of storytelling. When I was just two years old, my family moved next door to them in Seminole, Texas, so their influence began almost as soon as I learned to talk. With no children of their own, Ida Mae and Paul were like second parents for me and my brother. They loved and supported us during good times and bad.
They were especially supportive when I left Seminole to be hospitalized at the Menninger Clinic for treatment of my severe depression. As I describe in my memoir, Where the Water Meets the Sand,
“Our next-door neighbors, Ida Mae and Paul Darling, had taken me shopping when I’d told them I was worried about going to Menninger because I didn’t have a wealthy person’s wardrobe. Thinking about the navy blue skirt and vest, yellow turtle sweater, and dressy slacks in my suitcase made me feel a little more confident.”
I spent a lot of my time at their house during my childhood. Ida Mae had been a teacher, and she was always stretching my mind to think differently. She and I would play Red Rover, our own special version of the well-known children’s game. She would say, “Red Rover, Red Rover, let Tyra come over,” and I would walk up to the invisible line we had drawn on the grass and act out a storybook character. Ida Mae would guess who I was, and then ask me questions like, “Why did you decide to be that person?” or “Why did you use that action to describe her?”
Ida Mae really sparked my imagination and encouraged creativity because I always wanted to make sure that I came up with something good. I’m positive that my love of storytelling was born right there playing a child’s game, and I’ll always be grateful to Ida Mae for instilling that love in me at such an early age. I carried that with me throughout my own career as an educator, and tried to encourage the children that I taught to tell their own stories just as Ida Mae had done with me.
My relationship with Ida Mae and P.D. was something special. They weren’t blood relatives, but they were family. They didn’t have to love us, but they did. Just cause. We were blessed to have them as such dear friends, and I will always be thankful for all the love and support they gave to our family.