Thursday, August 15, 2013


My first year in school was not a good one.  It nearly killed me and my mother both.  I still view that year as one of the most informative and character-shaping times of my life.  They were troubling and traumatic times, those everyday trips to the classroom where I learned nothing new, but every afternoon, I'd come home at lunch and sidle up to the bar and hear the news of the world.

Yes, that's right.  I was a 5 year-old barfly.

Before you retroactively dial up CPS, though, hear me out.  My parents managed a private country western bar and dance club in Pampa, Texas, and every afternoon, they'd open up to begin preparation for the evening.  Since we lived in a house behind the club and I couldn't stay by myself, my mom or dad would pick me up and bring me to the Nugget Club.  The bar was my babysitter, and it was a good one.

Sometimes, I'd wipe down tables or wash glasses.  Other times, I'd get to stay in the back and play video games or pinball or watch afternoon cartoons on the giant screen television.  And then I'd wander up front and sit with the afternoon drunks at the bar, sipping on a 7-Up with extra lime, shelling peanuts, and learning the important lessons of life -- like how to properly pick a square in the football pool or how to play black-jack.  Before I was 6, I knew how to shoot 8-ball, hate the Philadelphia Eagles, and carry a tray full of drinks.

It's a miracle that I didn't grow up to be a cocktail waitress.

But my favorite days were when my dad brought his roller skates to work.  The Nugget Club had a huge dance floor where my dad taught me to roller skate.  

Much like everything else he did, he was a hell of a roller-skater.  He'd put a '45 of Don Williams on, and we'd race or skate backward or wind through an obstacle course of barstools and beer mugs.  

Sometimes, I'd be skating by myself only to look up and see my mom and dad dancing alone, holding each other close, in the middle of the floor.  And much like everything else either of them did, they were fantastic dancers.  If I were to paint a picture of what true love looks like, that would be it.

Even now, 30 years later, I will hear an old country song and know all of the words.  I might not know the name of the song or the artist, but somehow I can sing along.  This makes my parents insanely happy, but it's only natural -- the soundtrack of my childhood is George, Willie, Waylon, Merle, and Patsy.  It was cheatin' hearts and steel guitars and Johnny Cash.  And I loved it.  I still do sometimes.

It's a miracle that I didn't grow up to be a drunk and penniless songwriter.

Instead, I grew up to be a school teacher, of all damn things, who still likes extra lime in her drinks, the wail of a steel guitar, and the smell of cue chalk. 

Like I said, character-shaping.

This one's for my mom and dad.  Thanks for the life lessons.  Whether good or bad, they've served me well.

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