I make no bones about growing up in the little town of Karnes City, Texas…population 3,000. This tiny berg was many things: small, limited and confining but it was home and much of what I am today, is because of what I went through, endured and survived in Karnes City.
I left at 18 when I headed north to Austin to attend the University of Texas. Good times. But for 14 of those years, I thought Karnes City was the coolest place.
My halcyon days….emotionally, anyway.
I won’t tell you why. I’m going to show you why.
First of all, you must meet my family. To properly do that, I have a confession to make. Laurie Kendrick isn’t my real name. It’s a nom d’plum. My real name is Constance Grazsinkowitzky. Yep, all those consonants can only mean one thing: I’m Polish.
My mom once said the only thing my father ever gave her that was long and hard was his last name. I didn’t understand the comedy in that until much later.
And as you can imagine with a name like Grazsinkowitzky, I come from a large Catholic family.
I’m one of twenty kids and there’s a 51 year age difference between the oldest and youngest child.
Here’s a family photo taken back in 2005.
I’m not picture–I took the photo.
I’d asked that the family make faces, you know…yuck it up a bit, but they refused. They wanted this to be a formal photo showing the Family Grazsinkowitzky as it really is; how each member looks in his and her everyday lives.
So, this is my family.
The woman in the middle in the white blouse is our mother, Lucy.
Lovely woman–kind and generous and a real gynecological trooper, but emotionally exhausted as you can well understand after 20 kids! It took a toll on Mom physically, too. Her uterus prolapsed after the 12th child and it often…well...it often protruded from her nether regions.
It got so bad that we had to get an upholsterer to make necessary alterations to her pants.
Here’s a picture of mom back in 1989 . It clearly captures her uterine dilemma.
The situation only got worse as the years progressed. The prolapse grew and expanded. Guess what we’re sitting on in the family photo above?
Hint: It wasn’t a sofa.
We didn’t have a lot of money growing up. It was hard to raise 20 kids on my father’s salary. He made urinal cakes, at home in our kitchen.
“Piss Cakes By Lug” opened for business in the Spring of 1975.
Daddy always went the extra mile and had this neurotic need to decorate them. He spent hours on frosting and assorted designs.
My father called this particular piss cake design, “The Nipsey Russell”.
Not sure why he iced the urinal cakes. The frosting was always the first to go down the proverbial drain when in they were in use, but I guess his hard work paid off. Daddy realized a modicum of success in the very beginning.
One of his first customers was a neophyte politician named Larry or Craig or something like th at. Anyway, he was from Idaho and he had a real fascination with men’s urinals.
I met him only once when I was a kid. But I saw him years later outside a bar in Boise. It was called “The Glory Hole–South”.
At least I thought it was the same man.
I found a picture of him to show Daddy.
Yep, Daddy confirmed it.
He recognized the flooring immediately. It belonged to one of Larry’s favorite places to hang out— the mens restroom in the Minneapolis-St.Paul International airport!
We tried to survive on Daddy’s meager “Piss Cakes By Lug” income. We scrimped and we saved, but the bills kept coming and we couldn’t pay them. Daddy tried to trick the Mail Man, but that didn’t work either.
Daddy and my seven brothers tried to keep a handle on food bills by hunting. Deer was the game of choice. We had venison all the time. And rest assured that we used every part of the deer.
Nothing was wasted!!
Christmas was fun, but gifts weren’t very abundant. Mom and Dad did the best they could. I was 10 before I realized these weren’t toys.
Sticks weren’t that much fun to play with. Mom and Dad even tried to con us one for Easter by painting a few sticks blue and then saying they were from Tiffany’s.
We had to use our imaginations. Sticks became an important part of our lives. In fact, they played a vital role in my brother’s engagement photo.
His shirt says it all.
We had to be frugal with the wedding plans. Even the bride’s family was fiscally challenged and couldn’t contribute much. We had to pinch pennies where we could. Especially at the reception. We even had a Beer Monitor stationed at the only keg we could afford.
Here’s my new sister-in-law getting her beer ration for the afternoon.
And to further economize, my father volunteered to make the wedding cake.
It wasn’t very pretty and it wasn’t very good either.
It tasted like….well, it tasted like urine!
It was so had that when my brother and his new bride left for their honeymoon, we didn’t throw rice…
We just threw up.