Sanger, TX had a population of 2,224 people when we first moved there in 1983. There was only 1 gas station, a Dairy Queen and a small grocery store called “Burrus” which was named after it’s owner Sam Burrus. Just north of Denton, Sanger was so small that many people hardly noticed as they traveled down I-35 on their way to Gainesville or Oklahoma.
There were very few businesses in the town, but when my sisters and I got older we seemed to work at all of them. My oldest sister worked at Burrus when she turned 16. Our middle sister worked at a local daycare and cleaned the only newspaper office in town – the Sanger Courier.
Eventually my middle sister no longer wanted to clean the newspaper office and I took over for her with very little fanfare. It was like she just handed me the rag and the bottle of Old English furniture polish and I immediately went to work dusting the layout tables and desks.
The Lemmons’ family was well-known around the town and in my eyes they were rich. They lived in a house that overlooked a huge field and all the windows in the house were huge picture windows that faced South. I did such a good job cleaning the newspaper offices that they wanted me to clean their house too.
“All of the cleaning supplies are under the bathroom cabinets, I like to take this Lysol and spray around the toilet for whenever Blake misses.”
Blake was their youngest and only son. He drive a white Camaro I-ROC Z that happened to be the best looking sports car in town. Blake could have easily been a Baldwin with his Ivy League good looks and his rakish smile. I had to clean his bathroom, but I didn’t have to clean his bedroom.
I worked hard for the Lemmons’ and eventually I started labeling newspapers for them and doing other odd jobs around the house. I was a hard worker and Mr. Lemmons’ continued to give me work to do off and on for 6 years.
Everything I did for the Lemmon’s was pretty basic manual labor. Blake picked up on the fact that I was strong and that if he used phrases like, “Let’s see if you can carry that dresser onto the U-Haul by yourself” that I would actually try to do it just to impress him.
That is what I learned most working for the Lemmons’ – how to impress people with my strength and speed, but I also learned the true meaning of the word Envy.
Blake had everything, a nice house, a beautiful car, good looks, cool friends. When he moved in with 2 other guys they got a house close to the lake and drank beer and had a pool table. Neon Bud Light signs hung on the walls of their house and there was a large boat parked outside.
Blake was known to be an excellent skier and he dated pretty girls and I had to clean his bathroom. As hard as I tried not to let it bother me, it did. The Lemmons’ family was in a different class. They drove Mercedes and wore Polo. Their refrigerator was full of food and they had an entire walk-in cupboard full of food. Their house was fascinating, he living room filled with plants and expensive furniture and a cool mint green carpet that was thick and plush and clean. Compared to the two-bedroom trailer that I was living in it was a palace and it was then that seeds of materialism became planted deep within me.
I learned fast how to make money. By the time I was 24 I was making close to 55,000 dollars and I had nice Jeep Grand Cherokee and an expensive apartment. I made more money than all of my friends. I had a nicer car than my parents. Unfortunately, it took me many years to realize that no matter how much you gussy up the outside, it is the inside that matters.
When I look back on those crucial teen years I realize that what I envied most about Blake was his confidence and the fact that he seemed to be perfectly secure in himself. This is what I envied most… and there are times I still envy him that.