Like My Daddy
It was August 12, 2003. The former Governor of Texas, Ann Richards,
was giving a speech at a private party held in her honor, and said
and I'd like to thank Kambri Crews
" To her,
I was a producer, event planner and publicist. Little did she know
that I grew up in a tin shed, my parents are deaf, I witnessed my
dad try to kill my mom, and he is now imprisoned for attempting
to kill his girlfriend.
mother was born to two deaf-mute parents. Although she could speak,
her hearing was impaired enough to require her to attend the Oklahoma
State School for the Deaf. It was there she met her husband, and
my father, Theodore Crews, Jr. He was the seventh of ten children
born to farmers in Bowlegs, Oklahoma. Although his twin brother
was hearing, my father was born completely deaf with a precocious
wild streak. He quickly became the black sheep of his very strict
five, he was sent away to deaf school to live in the dorms. Known
to classmates as Teddy, he was a charismatic ladies man. A strikingly
handsome athlete, gregarious and affable storyteller and a bit of
a bad boy, so it was no surprise he charmed my mother. They married
at 19 and had my brother at age 20. I was born four years later
and our family was complete. After a couple of years living in Houston
with me a latchkey kid at age five and my brother hanging with older
kids unsupervised, my parents decided to try a more rural lifestyle.
So, when I was six years old, they moved us deep into the undeveloped
woods of Montgomery, Texas.
early time there was spent camping in tents as we worked to clear
the heavy brush, but we were soon living in a one-room tin shed
approximately 20 x 20 in size with a concrete slab floor. We made
the most of our space by sleeping on bunk beds made of chicken coop
wire pulled taut over 2 x 4s and fashioning a closet out of rope
attached to two posts. We were resourceful, too. An oversized electric
cable spool turned on its side served as a table, a discarded pick-up
truck bench was our couch; we used kerosene lanterns for light and
camping gear for cooking. We had an outhouse, which required a flashlight
and some guts to brave at night. "Be sure to check the hole
before you sit, you don't want a snake to bite you in the ass,"
my mom would warn -- words to live by.
no running water or nearby source, we resorted to thievery. At night,
my dad would load the back of our dilapidated '66 Chevy pick-up
truck with a few ten gallon jugs and drive several miles down the
road to steal water from the only store in town. We treated that
hijacked water like gold. We cooked, cleaned
and bathed with it very sparingly. We used a metal trough as our
tub and would share the same bathwater. Luckily, I was the youngest
and least dirty so I bathed first. But dirty we were. This land
took work. Each day consisted of chopping, dragging, burning, cutting
and building. My dad led the expedition and had big plans for our
four acres. Down time was spent looking at floor plans of pre-fabricated
homes, sketches drawn by my mom of her ultimate dream house complete
with elaborate landscaping, and talking of the day when we would
have a real house with electricity and water that came out of faucets.
That wish came true when I was ten years old and our new mobile
home was delivered to our humble acreage. Modern day conveniences
would soon follow.
hot summer evening, we all gathered around a pole and watched my
dad finish wiring the box that would catapult us into the 20th Century.
I treasure a photo I have of him, his white smile gleaming through
the grime on his face, as he flipped the switch. Electricity! As
far as I knew, he was Ben Franklin. In the following months, he
dug a water well which tapped into the natural spring that flowed
freely beneath our land and a septic tank which meant we wouldn't
need that outhouse anymore.
in Montgomery wasn't always work, it was an exciting adventure for
a young girl. I swam in the nearby creek, played football, collected
turtles and built my own shanty out of loose brush and spare wood.
My parents were always hosting big parties with bonfires and eclectic
friends. My brother and I partied alongside the adults, passing
around joints and stealing sips of alcohol. We were given adult
freedoms, sexuality was never censored, we were free to come and
go as we pleased and often left to supervise ourselves. Although
I instinctively knew it was illegal, my parents would constantly
remind me, "You know not to tell anyone we smoke marijuana,
right?" "I know, I know!" I would sign. Jeez, what
did they think I was? A kid?
the summertime we would pile into the Chevy and drive to Galveston
Beach. My mom would make homemade sour cream and onion dip, and
my dad would scold me for double dipping the Ruffles. When we would
finally get back to our trailer in the woods, I would smell the
ocean for days. Tiny grains of the beach would find their way into
my bed and scratch my sunburned skin as I slept. I always got too
much sun so my mom would rub me down with vinegar to take the chills
and blisters away. We would talk about the trip and recall how my
Flintstones flip-flop fell through a rotted slat while riding in
the back of the Chevy. Without hesitation my dad had stopped the
truck and ran across four lanes of highway traffic to rescue it
for me. "I can't believe he did that!" I marveled, before
drifting off to sleep.
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