Ch. 6: Might as well be another planet
Have you ever heard a place referred to as the “armpit of” some place? No, well, Venus, TX is truly the armpit of Texas. That is where I grew up. I wasn’t born there; I was born in Dallas. Then I lived briefly in some town in East Texas but I don’t have any memories of those years, so basically they don’t exist. I was pretty young when we moved to Venus, too young to know what kind of town my parents were moving us to, too young to have any opinions at all about it.
On the façade, Venus looks like a quaint little Texas town, the kind you see in movies or TV shows. In fact, Chuck Norris filmed something in our town once.
It looks like the kind of place where there are festivals and parades and all kinds of spirit. And, actually, it was; however, there was a darker, more ominous side to my quaint little hometown. Most wouldn’t ever know this, unless they, too grew up in an armpit town. These towns are like a haven for pedophiles, jerks, and creeps. I won’t go into that further but I will say there was more than meets the eye when it comes to the pizza guy and the antique guy.
Growing up in Venus wasn’t all bad though, don’t get me wrong. It was fun to have so much freedom. Since my mother was never there and my father was always drunk, I basically raised myself. I got to go where I wanted, when I wanted, as long as my legs or my bike could carry me there. You would think there wasn’t much to explore but when you’re young and there is nothing to do, you make your own entertainment. Because, I will remind you, most of my youth was before the age of cell phones and wireless internet. I mean, I was a dial-up kid. As such, my fun was in the town.
I was never particularly social but I knew everyone in the town and I made “friends” with all of them. They each got to see a different side of my personality. Some got the old wise soul. Some got the fun, vibrant child. Some got the charismatic pageant queen. Some got the mature for her age adolescent. It really just depended on who I thought they wanted me to be; there was a never ending supply of characters willing to be my audience in that town. The adults, I think, were just as bored as the kids, for better or worse.
Chapter 7: Legos, Recipes, and Truth or Dare
When I think about the games I played in childhood the only things that come to mind are Legos, truth or dare, riding bikes, jumping rope, and making recipes with whatever I could find or steal. By steal I mean take from the kitchen without being noticed, that was my father’s domain. We were a non-traditional household and he was pretty observant. Sometimes I could manage to jack some spices from the spice rack, however.
The recipes I made were nothing like the recipes which inspired them. There was this show called Zoom that was popular when I was a kid. And in this show they would do science experiments and make crazy recipes. I imagine the things they made were actually edible. That was not the case for my concoctions. I would do things like mix leaves with rosemary and water and cinnamon. Yuck! I have no idea why that was so gratifying.
When I wasn’t making recipes I was building things out of Legos with one of the boys who lived in the neighborhood. I was really friends with his sister, Alison, but I was in awe of his intellect and creativity. Allen could build anything. He would build castles and spaceships and whole towns before there were pre-made sets that made conquering such feats an easy task. He was a Lego genius. I think some part of me wished that he could build a place I could escape into but I realistically knew that life doesn’t work that way. Even now, though, I still dream of faraway places. I may not build things with boys and use that as an escape but I certainly learned how to escape in my own head.
It was games like truth or dare that made escape necessary. There is so much shame surrounding the games of truth or dare that would be played with the neighborhood girls that I don’t even want to tell you about them here. I look back on them now as an adult and I realize just how many of us must have been made victim at the hands of flesh greedy men. There was no way that we all could have known the things we knew to dare each other to do otherwise. But we did know. Perhaps they were building escapes in their own minds as well. Because for most of us, I think we learned early that those who love us, don’t always show love in healthy ways.
I do want to make clear, however, that I did learn love. I learned love while riding bikes, jumping rope, exploring the town, having sleepovers with friends, jumping on the trampoline, learning how to swim, and hanging out in my friend’s treehouse. I learned love by being a visitor in the lives of other people, the lives of happier people. But that doesn’t really matter, what matters is that I did learn love.