Years ago, in my early 30’s, I took a trip to Mexico with my friend, Jenn. (At the time, we were new-ish, met-at-work-and-now-we-are-soul-mates kind of friends, but now we are actual life-long kind of friends.) There are so many stories from that trip that can only be told in person, or, maybe you just had to be there, but oh my goodness… that was a fun trip! It was my first (and only?) time in Mexico, and perhaps my first actual “vacation” as an adult. So, we got there, and headed straight to a table on the beach. We ordered Sol beers and chips and hot sauce from Roberto. And I sat there… on the edge of my seat, fidgeting, eyes wide, good posture, big grin — like some kid on the first day of school — and asked, “What are we gonna do now?” And Jenn just looked at me, and laughed and said “We are already doing it.”
Sometimes you just miss life if you are thinking about it too much.
This year – this last year of my 40’s – has felt a bit like a journey, dotted with these same kind of “Ah-Hah!” moments. It’s like I’ve been on this quest of re-discovering, re-connecting, re-grounding, and re-finding where I belong in this life. Finding HOME, if you will. The first thought I had this morning – ok, maybe not the very first, but the first one that hit me in the face and made me stop for a second – was “How fucking beautiful is this place that I now call home?”
I grew up in Houston, and so, you look left, you look right, you look ahead, or you look behind… and you pretty much see a building. Here, I can look, and see as far as I can see. The town is small, but the world feels so much bigger.
Sometimes, looking off into that forever, I get this feeling… a split second of almost-clarity. It’s a bit elusive and I can’t quite grasp it — like a word that you can’t remember but you know it starts with a certain letter –- but it goes something like this: Let’s just say I was sad. For whatever reason. And maybe I was sad for days. (Or, yikes, maybe I was sad for years!) But then I think, just FEELING that sadness is good, in a “I’m alive” kind of way. It means I feel things, and that is good. And acknowledging it means I can also see past it. I can take that emotion, and roll it around like a marble in my hand, and just hold it, and feel it, and then I can let it go when I’m ready to. And I put it up for safe keeping, with all the other marbles. I may go back to it later. Is that weird?
So, I recently moved (back) to a little town. The town I did the last 2 years of high school in, the same town my grandfather came to as a boy from Scotland, the town my dad grew up in. I didn’t grow up here, but it feels like home.
I’ve been coming here for as long as I can remember. We’d start out early in the morning, seven of us piled into the car, heading from Houston to Llano. It would take us all day, even though it’s just under 4 hours if you don’t dawdle. But, we dawdled.
There are landmarks that I will never forget along the way:
- the long stretch of I-10, dotted by rice fields and Brookshire and Sealy –towns you would miss if you sneezed or looked the other way
- that bridge in Columbus that we drove under (before they built the highway out of town)
- the Bon Ton in La Grange, where we stopped every time and there was always chicken-fried steak
- that stretch right before Bastrop where the highway is separated by a grass boulevard (but I don’t think that’s the right word)
- My cousin’s house in Austin where we’d stop and climb a big oak tree (and maybe someone would fall off )
- Houses on the hill, and the winding, hilly road heading out of Austin
- that bridge that crosses the Pedernales, where you can see forever, and it’s so pretty it hurts
- the cut-off (281) to Marble Falls… so close, but still so far…
- The lights of town if it was night or the bridge if it was still daytime.
Once we got to my Grandmother’s house, there was the big table in front of the living room, and then a little table in the kitchen. Just through there was a bedroom where her feather bed lived (and another bed), and the red stool next to the phone (4245… those are the only numbers you need to know). You had to walk through that room, and then another room to get to the bathroom, where the door locked via a hook and eye latch. The clock in the kitchen tick-tocked all night.
My Grandma Ima would wake up early, before anyone else. She had hands that were old and strong, and thick glasses, and she could do ANYTHING! She would make divinity and cake out of almost nothing, and never consulted a recipe. She would give us buckets to go gather dewberries out of the yard, and then make a cobbler that could make a grown man cry. She always had that kind of vanilla ice cream that came in the big red gallon buckets. At Thanksgiving, so many people piled into that tiny house, the kids had to go sit on the steps outside. It would take at least 3 plates to try everything, and that’s even before dessert.
Growing up, I always just assumed I’d live in Houston forever. It was the place I first went to school. The place I met my first friends. The place I married. The place I divorced. The place I knew. The place where my own kids grew up. The place I finally figured out how to navigate in my car. The place I got my first “real job.” The place I became who I am.
Seems weird to just up and move, but that’s what I did, and it somehow doesn’t seem so weird now. When I leave here, I can’t wait to come back. And that is how I know that I’m HOME. I love my friends back “home” in Houston, and I love all of my old and new friends here at my new “Home”.
Well, I just lost my train of thought, or I didn’t have an ending in mind. That’s all for now. Thanks for taking this trip with me.