A journey always begins with the first step. And sometimes, you end up right back where you started.
This is the story of Larry Perkins. His journey began in Enfield, a small town in Eastern North Carolina, on a path that led to a majestic house that he was forbidden to enter.
In his book, “Buck Seventy Two: A Destiny of Will,” the Apex resident writes about being 9 years old and how his life changed when he went to live with his abusive father and stepmother in an old slave hut behind a plantation house.
For years, Perkins held the pain of his childhood inside. The hurt began when his mother abandoned him as a young child. Perkins and his siblings bounced around among extended family members for a while until he was sent to his father’s home, while his brother and sister lived with grandparents.
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“Tragedies were buried as if they were just another day,” said Perkins, 67, who is the PNC Arena’s vice president of guest relations and assistant general manager.
Life as a sharecropper’s son was hard, with long days planting and harvesting crops. Perkins wasn’t able to attend school regularly; he didn’t have many friends and missed his siblings who lived 6 miles away. A visit to see his brother and sister happened in the summer when he had time to walk to their home.
The plantation owner’s son was one of Perkins’ closest friends. Their play time had to be outdoors or in the hut, never inside his friend’s home.
“It was an unspoken rule that Negro boys who lived on the farm were forbidden to enter a white man’s house,” Perkins writes.
The healing began when Perkins put pen to paper.
“I committed to writing 500 words a night,” he said. “As I saw the sun rising some morning, I noticed my paper was filled with tears.”
The book title, “Buck Seventy Two,” refers to the amount of money Perkins had in his pocket when he ran away to New York City when he was 16.
Perkins wanted to get away from the misery of the farm in hopes of finding his mother. He dreamed of a joyful reunion full of love and promises fulfilled from letters he occasionally received from his mother.
When Perkins found his mother in New York, it was not the Hallmark moment he had longed for. He was rejected by his mother again and was sent to live with an uncle.
With a hardened heart and resolve to make his own way in the world, Perkins returned to Enfield and found another path that included going to church and being baptized.
In time, Perkins earned enough money to head back north and pursue more lucrative opportunities. He landed a position in security at Meadowlands Sports Complex in New Jersey. His expertise in crowd management led to traveling around the world and working with an array of celebrities.
Perkins wanted to get back to his beloved North Carolina and began working at the PNC Arena 15 years ago. Today, Perkins’ office has many awards as well as pictures of key events, including holding the Stanley Cup from the 2006 Hurricanes’ NHL win.
In an effort to capture these moments in a book that would inspire young people, Perkins realized he needed to heal from his childhood pain.
It took Perkins 11 years to complete his memoir that was published in October. The process led him to forgiveness, giving back to the Enfield community and writing another book, “Life Choices,” that was published last month.
“Life Choices” is a short read, peppered with exercises designed to help the reader uncover hidden talents that may be suppressed by trauma.
“Both books deal with struggles of life, but also focus on changing from within,” Perkins said.
The proceeds from the books are put into a nonprofit, Foster A Voice, that Perkins established earlier this year. Foster A Voice focuses on raising awareness of the cycle of despair for many foster children.
The nonprofit is Perkins’ way of giving back and helping children through a variety of programs. Perkins is in the process of buying property in Enfield, where his journey began long ago. It one day will be that will be the center of his outreach to the community.
“Understanding who we are allows us to know why we are – giving our life purpose and joy,” Perkins said.
Listen to Perkin’s stories at a book signing planned in January at Daniel’s Restaurant and Catering, 1430 W. Williams St., Apex. To RSVP or learn more, go to buck72.com/life-choices.html.