Friday, February 13, 2009

Oh, My!

So earlier this week I was reading through all the blogs I love to read and one of them stopped me in my tracks. Well, I was sitting at the computer, so technically I guess my tracks had stopped sometime before, but you know what I mean.

Glass-Eyed Grady’s posted a humorous story about a run-in with a future juvenile delinquent and it immediately brought to mind my own brief but memorable stay at Juvenile Hall. I know, I know, you are thinking, “What? But you sound so normal. So respectable even!” But yes! I spent half a night and a day in Juvie. In Downtown Dallas. It was so not fun.

I was 14 or so and had run away from home for the umpteenth time and had been gone for about four days. I was planning on catching a ride to California with these two guys I had just met when the police found me sleeping in a car and decided that California might not be such a great idea. But when they called my mom, guess what? She said that life was actually a whole lot easier without me around causing trouble and she did not, under any circumstances, want me to come home. Believe me, I was Trouble (That’s Trouble with a capital T – that’s me!).

I wasn’t always trouble. I was a quiet, shy, book-ish girl for most of my youth. You know the kind – honors classes, gifted program, no time for boys, etc… In other words, kind of boring. But then High School happened. I started getting mad crushes on boys with pink hair and tattoos and piercings. I hung out in the smoking area and started using curse words with emphasis. This is me at the beginning of 9th grade:

Shortly after this picture was taken, I decided to shave my head Cyndi Lauper style and consequently got kicked off the Pep Squad. Which was fine with me because who wants to be popular and cute and peppy anyway?

Then I started skipping classes and when I got detention, I skipped those too. I started putting vodka in a thermos and drinking it on the way to school. I flunked out of all those honors classes. In fact, I flunked 9th grade. At first I figured that was just fine since I started Kindergarten at age four. Just doin’ my part to even it all out. But then half-way through 10th grade I just gave up altogether and quit school.

I had turned into one of those lost kids and I felt like no one in the whole wide world could possibly understand what it was like to be me. So I ran away. Frequently. And, eventually, off to juvenile hall I went.

It was about three in the morning when the police dropped me off at Juvie - gray, cold, and institutional in every sense. By the time I was stripped searched (my stomach still turns at this memory), checked for lice, showered, and given too small clothes to change into, it was almost five in the morning. The attendant/warden walked me into a room lined on both sides with small beds. I found an empty one near the door. I was terrified, but exhaustion won out and I fell immediately to sleep. But guess what? Wake up call was at six freaking thirty – and trust me, they don’t believe in a snooze button.

This is when panic started setting in. Those girls in there were a whole different kind of tough. There were girls in there accused of murder. Kids that had done some seriously bad things. I realized just what a complete pansy I was when one of the girls, a very large Hispanic girl that looked like she could squash me like a bug, hit me with a volleyball in the gym – on purpose! - and then dared me to tell on her. It was at this point when I started begging to go home. By the end of the day my mother had made arrangements to have me released and sent to a special home for troubled kids. A few weeks after that she let me come home.

I wish I could say that the experience turned me around and I became a model teenager again. But hey, this ain’t Disney – right? I quit running away when my mom stopped giving me curfews and then I started going out with people that looked like this:

Yes, that is an actual picture of an actual boyfriend of mine. Just the kind of guy your parents want to see you date. Right? And I started hanging out in crowded smoky night clubs, empty alleys, and the dark streets of Deep Ellum. For those of you not familiar with the Deep Ellum part of downtown Dallas, in the late 80’s in was where the freaks came out at night. I fit right in.

Check out my spider web pantyhose:

Somewhere around age 19 or 20, I started getting my act together. I don’t know if all of my rage and confusion finally just burned itself out or what, but I decided to set a new goal – to be as NORMAL as possible. Really. I set my eyes on having a real grown-up life with a smart, sweet husband, darling children, a dog, and a white picket fence.

Here is me at age 20:

Pretty darn cute, huh?

It took a while, and I had to get my heart broken almost to the point of no repair, but finally finally finally I started making my way down a better path. And so far, I think I am doing pretty damn great. My “normal” checklist is almost complete:

4GED – check
4College degree – double check
4Married to the most incredible guy in the whole entire world AND who comes from a completely non-dysfunctional family – big giant check
4 A super smart and sweet son and a delightful drama queen daughter – check
4White picket fence – check
4Shiny new SUV – check
4A small, but oh so cute dog that only chews up stuffed animals occasionally - check
4A beach house where I can write away the hours while the surf crashes against the rocks and the warm breeze washes my tanned face – um, not yet. I guess I still have some work to do. ;-)

So, Melissa, there may be hope for that 10 year-old boy threatening to beat a grown man’s ass. Or maybe not. But the next time you meet a fellow mom that seems to have attained that perfect life, remember the other side of the coin – the path to “normal” is not always a straight one. Mine was filled with deep valleys, swamp pits, scary monsters, and long uphill battles.

But it is mine.

[Note: My husband was absolutely against me posting this particular blog. He said something about it falling under the category of way too much information. And then he said something about me still being a little bit of a freak. And then something about the PTA revoking my membership. hmmm....]


Barb said...

I'm convinced that when we stop hiding the things that shame us, we stop being shamed by them. I was bulimic for 17 years and only after I started telling people that I had a problem did I recover.

I toured that Dallas Juvie Detention Center as a teenager. It scared the crap out of me.

juliejulie said...

Wow. Great post! Tell your husband to pipe down, this was good information, not too much. Isn't it funny how we can reduce the long, tricky years of adolescence into one well written story on a blog post many years later? Kudos on the white picket fence. I'm serious.

kristi said...

Amen sister. One would never know what I have been through if they saw my life now.