So I'm reading this memoir called "But Enough About Me". It's about this girl's childhood during the 70s, and it's downright scary how much she reminds me of myself when I was young.
It got me thinking about my childhood, and some of the characters that passed through my young life. When we moved to Boise, I hooked up with the hoodlums of the neighborhood. As anyone who has ever been "the new kid" knows, it's the misfits who will accept you first. So my new friends were the outcast kids whose families were dysfunctional enough to make us want to stay outside until the streetlights came on. That was the rule back then: "When the streetlights come on, it's time to come home." And anything else was fair game. Seriously, our parents had no idea where we were or what we were doing for the oh, fourteen hours a day that we were outside.
For instance: I hooked up with this CRAZY kid, Betty. Her family had recently moved into a house down the street that probably should have been condemned. All the neighborhood kids thought it to be haunted and we couldn't believe it when a family actually moved into it. We avoided it (and it's occupants) like the plague. I met Betty one day when I was walking home from tennis lessons. I was 9 and she was 7; she leaned out the window of that falling-down house and yelled "Hey! Ya got a cigarette?" And that was it...I was pulled in like a fly to honey. She had this crazy raspy voice that sounded like she'd been smoking all her life, and she was the funniest person I'd ever met. She may have been 7, but she had the soul (and life experience) of a 72 year old lounge-singer. Anyway, Betty and I became great friends; she and her family exposed me to things I'd never even imagined. Her family lived like gypsies; I don't think they ever stayed anywhere more than 6 months. They had lived all over the country and whenever whatever it was that they were running from threatened to come close, they piled their 9 kids and 5 dogs into an ancient beater of a car and hit the road. On to the next town. I never knew what the story was, but it intrigued the hell out of me and my white-bread existence. Even now, I identify them as the most dysfunctional family I've ever known; Hollywood's best and brightest screenwriters could never come up with this. Her oldest brother was a transvestite (this was Boise circa 1974 ya'll) who's friends cycled through the house like a never-ending freak show. There were other transgendered people, drug addicts and, I shit you not, several midgets and a few carnies. He and his friends would parade around the house telling us stories that just blew my young mind. I think I must have just stood around with my mouth hanging open. Betty's family didn't stay for long, of course, but she made one hell of an impact on me.
As soon as I finished that sentence, Lala called. I told her I was writing a post about Betty Fultz and she just cackled. She remembers Betty well (for her brief time in our lives, Betty made a life-long impression). Lala said "I have to say, I think Betty had a huge influence on who you are today". I replied "Why, I oughta kick your ass for that!" but then I thought about it and thought "Ok. I'll take it." Because Betty taught me, at the age of 9, that no matter what life throws at you, you've just gotta laugh. Now that I know more about life and the things that probably led to them being on the run, I shudder to think what went on in that house when it was just them. Betty had already learned that seeing the humor in life was a critical to one's survival. I learned that from her, and it continues to serve me well.
Betty, wherever you are, I hope you're still laughing too.