Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Yesterday we went on a 12 mile bike ride. It was a beautiful Texas spring afternoon, filled with sunshine and wispy clouds. We passed by fields of blood-red poppies and endless rolling seas of waving bluebonnets. Growing up I heard my mom, a Texas native, rave about the beautiful bluebonnets, although we were never there when they were growing. It was just a mental image of something that was important to mom. I've written about Texas before, but every day that I live here, it grows in familiarity.
In a way I am an adopted child of Texas. The name Texas is from the Louisiana Caddo Indians' word, "tejas" which means friend or ally. I was born in Caddo Parish, Louisiana, so I do have a tenuous connection with Texas. (That's my story and I'm sticking to it!) Mom and Dad used to joke that I was the only one of their children not born there but that they decided to keep me anyway.
I grew up with the flavors of Texas. Dad regaled us with stories about growing up in the Panhandle (the dust storms, the tumble weed). When we visited Grandma and Grandpa in Pampa, we used to sleep with the windows open at night. I could hear the plaintive whine of a far-away train whistle. Grandma had a garden behind her house, with morning glories and bachelor buttons nodding in the breeze. Mom and Dad both went to "The University" (there was no other). We honed our sense of humor with Aggie jokes (why do Aggies have TGIF written on their shoes? Toes Go In First!) One vision I have of my mother is in a flannel skirt decorated with a picture of a sleeping Mexican man wearing a sombrero. The first place we ate when we hit San Antonio was La Fonda del Norte. Mom tells the story of Mobil Oil knocking on the door of the house where she lived in Sherman, asking permission to drill in the back yard. They struck oil, and mom remembers the fine mist of black gold raining down from the sky.
Driving through White Deer, we all perked up to catch sight of the statue of a white deer down a side street. We would stop in Salado to eat at the Stagecoach Inn, where every meal began with a small cup of chicken broth and hush puppies. Towns like Dalhart, Paris, Turkey and Sherman have meaning to me. Mom told me recently that when she has trouble sleeping, she goes down the alphabet and names a town in Texas for each letter. Dallas to me means Granny, Amarillo Grandma, and San Antonio Aunt Sue. I kind of understand now why mom and dad sent me to Texas for college, although in my narcissistic teenage stage I had fears of being inundated with invitations from elderly relatives (never materialized).
We all learned the songs, the Yellow Rose, The Eyes of Texas, Deep in the Heart, and of course Beautiful Texas, from those long car trips. On the endless highway, my dad would say, "The sun has ris' and the sun has set, and here we is in Texas yet!" We knew why Houston was called Houston and Austin was called Austin.
Sometimes Third Culture Kids learn about their parents' culture from tales handed down, but they only experience it second-hand or on short visits. I find it ironic but fitting that I have landed back here, as a result of the events that have steered my life. But this time around, I am pausing long enough to really experience the things previously only figments of my imagination. The smell of a bluebonnet field, the sight of the Lone Star flag whipping in a hot wind, the taste of Mexican food ... it all reminds me that for a rootless Third Culture Kid, I do have some belonging to this place. And that is comforting.