This weekend Ruby and I accompanied my mom on a trip to Fort Worth Texas, home of the historic Stockyards(roundup center and slaughtering ground for the states unfortunate cow population). Emotionally speaking, visiting Fort Worth is a lot like a trip to the stockyards must have been for the cows. I drag my feet, heart full of dread, feeling as if I have no choice and eventually succumb to my tragic destiny. The despair of Fort Worth is evident miles before you actually reach the city, as businesses with names like "Liq-R-Ama" and "Sandy's Fashion Farm" begin to pop up on every corner. The men have that sanded down look of alcoholics from Depression era photographs and the assess of the women are so large they move independently of their owners.
I hate Fort Worth. I was born there, and having once escaped it, I have no desire to return. I think there is a part of me, still six years old, that fears I will not make it out again. It is by far the ugliest city I have ever been in, with the flattest most industrial landscape. The factories there must have eaten all the trees. During art school in New York City,I once stayed with friends in an abandoned check cashing store. The sign was still up above the front door. Men would pop their head into the door and ask my friends if they accepted two party checks. For miles around this place burnt out cars sat in the middle of the street for weeks, vast factories had every window broken out of them and crack dealers milled around like feral cats. I would prefer a little jaunt back to Checks R Us over an exile in Fort Worthless any day.
Yet there I was, after two straight years of wheedling and whinging from my mother about the importance of family, and it really wasn't so bad as long as I didn't eat anything or look out the window. I was forced to go to Wal Mart.( Where I saw AN ACTUAL RIFLE at toddler level near the Dora the Explorer Bubble Machine.) I ate both Long John Silvers and KFC standing up, out of the back of my vehicle.I spent 2 hours at a nursing home looking at pictures of people I didn't know. Ruby got sick with a fever and insisted on throwing up on me( No Mommy I sick ON YOU) and I heard one aunt say to another about her late blooming son," I tolt him he's 22 and it's time to get married and have a baby. I says, You got one year ."
My family must think I am a closet lesbian or just cracked in the head. Around puberty they begin to pump out offspring. I didn't have a baby until I was 31. Aside from my cousin, the actual lesbian, I think I waited later than anyone I'm related to. Not that it makes me any better or worse, it's just different. Being in that room with all of these young mothers and frighteningly young looking grandmothers is like being part of a social science experiment where I am both a participant and head researcher. Despite the hardships of the choices they make, the love my family feels for their children is almost palpable. Creating children and caring for them the best they can every day, with little resources and education, is their greatest achievement and they take pride in it the way my peers here in Austin do with their great novel or highly acclaimed graphic design business. It's touching, and humbling, and I am ashamed that in previous times in my life I have judged them for it. Now that I have a child, and I struggle to give her as much of my energy,heart and soul that I can, still attempting to write my great novel while she sleeps and promote my design business while she is in the next room making birdies out of play-doh, I understand more fully the heartbreaking choices parents must make. I question myself constantly. And sometimes I think how simple it would be if my one and only creative desire was to raise up a happy and loved child, even if it meant I worked at Taco Bell. Of course, there is nothing simple about trying to make ends meet on minimum wage. I have more options available to me, and I don't have to make that choice.
On the way home we stopped at the Dr Pepper museum in Waco to have a banana split.( Waco, by the way, would be the most logical site for me to find myself being lynched in the town square. It has the highest number of churches per capita in the whole country. Billboards with giant fetuses and slogans like" Every Child is a blessing" loom over tiny fake unborn baby cemetaries by the side of the highway. Jeff's favorite facebook post-"Abortion is for Lovers" seemed to be burning at the tip of my tongue, ready to come tumbling out in a fit of compulsion.I kept my big mouth shut and my head down, and hoped that their literacy rate did not rival their Christianity because the bumper sticker on my car reads " Who Would Jesus Bomb?")
We visited an antique store next to the museum that had a cute little display of hand decorated vintage bottles. I asked the woman at the front desk if she made them, and she said No, the owner, Terry, made them for the Junior League sale. I began to tell her about etsy, my online shop, and offer her my card so that she could pass it on to the owner.
" No she's not interested. She's too busy with the store to sell online."
I looked around at the empty store.
" It's really easy and things sell very quickly-"
"No. She doesn't want to do it."
She was so adamant that I began to think maybe she was Terry and due to her lonely days spent in an empty store, decorating bottles and drinking Dr Pepper, she had long ago started to refer to herself in the third person. Terry doesn't want to sell online. Terry is busy glueing a tiny Eiffel tower onto this soda bottle. Terry's bottles are for the Junior League. Terry saw your bumper sticker, get the fuck out of Waco. So we did.
Speaking of referring to yourself in the third person, Jeff and I have decided to go ahead and adopt our rich people names so that we're already comfortable using them when we hit it big. He is Chauncy and I am Pepper. Ruby is Bitsy, of course, and Lola will be Richard Bernstein-Lowenthal.( Yes, I have a Jewish dog, so what?)
Pepper refers to herself in the third person a lot now.
This morning Ruby came into our room grinning and informed us," I go peepee in daddy's shoe!" I got up, looked, and there was a deep lake of urine in Chauncy's 100 dollar Campers. Ruby was doubled over laughing and obviously had no idea that this wasn't the coolest thing for her to have done first thing in the morning.
" I peepee in da shoe Sunny!" she crowed and ran around in circles as I mopped it up. I had to pretend like I didn't think it was funny in front of Jeff, but secretly I was also filled with glee. Sometimes Pepper feels like peeing in Chauncy's shoes too.