I’ve been around a few places.
I’ve traveled enough in the Pacific Northwest to know that ferns grow rich and heavy underneath huge pines, and wild elderberries won’t kill you if you can stand the sour taste. I’ve ridden many a ferry from Seattle to Whidbey Island, feeling the salty air on my neck and sipping strong, rich coffee. Kiwi grows on the island like big fat grapes and the ground is always soggy.
I’ve dug my toes into the beaches of Aruba and the Florida Keys and Jamaica and San Diego, the faint smell of coconut lotion lingering in my nose. I like pina coladas and sushi and Red Stripe if it’s very cold. I like sitting on beaches – any beaches, really – and allowing myself to become hypnotized by the waves. My hair is bleached by sun and sand, and a bronze always hits the top of my forehead and colors my cheeks.
There’s nothing like the richness of Maine, dipping hunks of fresh lobster into clarified butter and sipping on champagne, or sailing in the cold waters off Camden. Folks vacationing there seem richer and older, with pink polo shirts, collars turned upward, and light blue deck shoes that can slide off for the boat shows. There are jewelers and carpenters and blanket companies that ship in their wool from faraway places.
I love being nestled in the Rocky Mountains, with a fire and a book and hot tea and anything containing green chilis. The smell in the air is striking and thin and when you go for a walk, you temporarily forget there’s a place back home. Our family survived a blizzard once, afraid our children would die and we’d run out of chips and beer. My husband stayed up all night feeding logs into the one fireplace and taping up windows. Ah, memories.
But despite everywhere I might travel, I’m a Texas girl.
It’s not that Texas is better than these other places. I think Upstate New York in early summer is about the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. I just want to crawl under the patchwork soil that stretches out for miles atop rolling hills and take a nap, drawing the sweet alfalfa around my shoulders and breathing in all that fresh-cut hay.
And give me New York City any day, my friend. I think everyone should live in the city long enough to absorb the sound of honking cabs as just background noise, like the evening news or a commercial break between Law & Order. I like to hear the sound of my high-heeled boots clicking along the pavement and I turn up the collar of my wool coat to ward off the chill. I love Christmas windows and those silly dancing Rocketts. I am amazed that in the center of so much commerce, tulips burst into bloom in Central Park in the Springtime. And Dean & Deluca? Bury me in that store, people. Just dig up a patch of concrete close to the truffle oil and stick me under.
But then there’s Texas. Home sweet home. I like to offer people pie and sweet tea and think everything can be reduced to a jelly or preserve or be covered in a flaky crust. I have yet to bake an okra pie, but I ain’t afraid of tryin. It’s different than just saying you’re from the South. The south reminds me of big ‘ol cotton plantations and lush greenery. I’m talking about Texas. Cotton fields here are long rows of dust in the drought years, especially the dry-land variety, and after the harvest it looks like a brown graveyard, with a few strands of stray cotton clinging to the stalks like surrender flags.
Texas is raw and gritty. Texas has dirt and longhorns and people really do pick themselves up by their bootstraps. Hard-working Hispanics infiltrated Texas with good, greasy Mexican food, and folks down here like their barbeque hot and sometimes spicy. Men are kind. They open doors and stand when a lady walks into the room and remove their hats in church. The only fancy shoes you’ll see around here are Luccheses and there are more family potato salad recipes than you can possibly imagine (I have my four personal favorites). Women don’t think it’s degrading to stay home rearing children and puff their chests with pride over things like blue-ribbon tomatoes and peach cobbler. They aren’t second-class citizens; they work too dang hard to help keep the family unit well-oiled to sit around worrying about their status.
I love being a Texan. I’m a “ya’ll come back” kind of girl and my dreams come dressed with fluffy biscuits and fried bacon. Us Texas girls aren’t easily dissuaded, which makes us good at things like law and politics and firing weapons. I think most people are just generally scared of a state that was once its own republic. We own guns. We own bibles. We ain’t afraid to use em.
But all hee-haw’n aside, Texas has a certain kindness, like fields of bluebonnets swaying in the breeze. Folks are always willing to lend a hand, and when you get right down to it, the people really aren’t as closed-minded as the rest of the country thinks. The morals are to be respectful of other people’s land. To preserve the goodness of nature the way God intended. To lift a hand to those underprivileged, and to give of our bounty to those in need. Texans have heart and raw emotions. They bleed and they sweat and they pry their dry, dusty boots off with a hard-earned sigh at the end of the day.
I suppose you can’t take the Texas out of this girl. I love visiting the city. I’m all over that Maine vacation. But most of the year, I’ll just settle here in our limestone place with a big porch, listening to the rain pelt down on the metal roof or the cicadas hissing in the summertime, and thank the Lord Jesus he set my feet here so many years ago to start sprouting roots. I’m now firmly entrenched to this patch of America, sipping sun tea in my rocking chair, complaining about the heat. If you want to find me, come to the place where people live their dreams big and smile even bigger.
Ya’ll come to see me anytime. I’ve got a jelly with your name on it.