Sunday, May 15, 2011

Cotton-Eyed Joe and an Oak Tree

I was not blessed to grow up in Texas, but over the years we did visit family in Corpus Christi, Kerrville and other towns.  One of these visits was magical for me.  I was 15 years old, quiet, awkward, and dreaming, always dreaming.  This particular trip to Texas we visited family in Kerrville.  Aunts, Uncles, cousins -- they were all in abundance and so wonderful.  We rode dirt bikes, went swimming in the Guadalupe, ate fried chicken, and just enjoyed one another.

Then it happened: we went to Crider's in 1975.  This place has been a constant source of joyful memory for me over the years.  I can clearly remember with my romantic 15-year-old memory the boy I met that night (I have absolutely no recollection of who he was).  We danced the Cotton-eyed Joe and I was introduced to Texas culture and what I consider real life.  The cultures of Miami and Kerrville were so different.  I never felt that I had roots in Miami no matter how long I lived there.  Texas was so alive in a real, family-oriented way.  Family mattered, people mattered.

Some of the memories I have of Crider's includes the enormous oak tree in the center of the dance floor.  I remember folks bringing their own bottles as Crider's didn't serve alcohol.  I remember the music and dancing and happiness I saw and felt there.

And guess what I found this morning when I did a search for Crider's?  God bless the internet:  Crider's Rodeo

Crider's is alive and well, bringing Texas joy to any and all who take the time to visit.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Dandelions are So Country!

My 15 year old mowed the front yard yesterday.  If you know me very well you know that I am an organic gardener.  I have never used chemical fertilizers, pesticides or weed killers on my lawn.  This leaves quite an eclectic verdure which we loosely refer to as our lawn.

Returning from an errand this morning, I greeted my kitties and looked at the spring beauty in and around my yard.  My bleeding hearts are huge!  Four and a half feet tall and across, they are quite ambitious and showy this year.  At the far left side of my front flower bed is my beloved hibiscus.  Although I don't have much good to say about Florida and my years there (except the wonderful friends I made while living there) I have the fondest of memories of the hibiscus bushes on the side of my house in Miami.  They were nearly 10 feet tall and bloomed constantly almost all year long. 

Up here in the temperate northeast we cannot grow the tropical hibiscus of my youth.  Instead we have these perennial shrubs that do bloom all summer long and but then go to sleep in the fall.  My hibiscus shrub is leafing out once again and promising that little bit of sentimentality that favorite plants can arouse in us.

And then we go back to the lawn.  It is not a beautiful lawn.  It is eclectic!  This is a nice way of saying that it has more weeds than grass.  Some of those weeds do not make me happy.  But there is one weed that always makes me happy:  the dandelion.  Dandelions are not only cheerful, they are a source of amusement for children everywhere.  After joyfully shining for a day or so, they go to seed and up pops this perfectly symmetrical puff ball that just begs to be blown upon. 

When I see dandelions in my yard I think of all of the money I have spent on perennials, the hard work on transplanting brown-eyed susans, evening primrose, and irises of all types.  Most of my store-bought perennials have not survived years of chickens, hard freezes, napping kitties, and my boys. 

But every year up pop those friendly, tough and abundant dandelions.  They are looked down upon by snooty yard people, elitist gardeners, and most everyone.  But I know they are just country folk.  They never make a fuss!  And I don't fuss over them.  I enjoy the dandelions in my yard.  The make me happy.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Frustration to Exploration

Yearning for the motherland, I have experienced frustration, depression, and even despair at times of ever returning to Texas. 

Having lived in Connecticut now for over 11 years and traveling back to Texas only three times in that 11 years, I have become nearly obsessed with moving back to where I feel my real home is.  Although Connecticut is beautiful, parklike even, it is not Texas.

I didn't grow up in Texas.  I was a Navy brat who grew up in Virginia, Italy and Florida.  Because my dad was on an aircraft carrier for 6 months at a time, we didn't move around a lot.  That said, I never put down roots anywhere until I was 21 years old and moved to Austin, Texas from Miami with my mother and sister.  I immediately knew this was home.  Maybe it was the family roots that drew me.  Maybe it was the friendliness of Texas that cemented that bond.  Because my mother's family is from Texas and still lives in Texas (those that are still with us), I was immediately accepted wherever I went. 

After I married, my husband was recruited by an electric utility in Florida.  So off we went on that adventure.  The appeal didn't last long and I remembered why I left Florida in the first place.  It is homogenous, transitory, a melting pot of people.  Some native Floridians I met had their roots there but most people were from elsewhere.

Seven years later my husband was again recruited away, this time to Connecticut.  The draw here was that I have family in Connecticut and we could finally live in the country.  Another adventure and we were off.  I never even felt a connection with Connecticut, not even a little bit.  I felt as though I was living in a foreign land and still do.  New Englanders are typically reserved making it difficult to become close to people here. I have met some very nice people in Connecticut, some exceptional people really, but still it is not home to me.  The roots just weren't growing.  For goodness' sake, they don't even offer to carry your groceries out to your car for you!

I yearn for Texas.  I yearn for the extremes you find there in the weather, culture, landscape, and people.  It is never boring in Texas.

No, I don't miss the fire ants and roaches, but I miss the wide open spaces, the friendly people, the love of family, and the variety of lifestyles.  Just the festivals alone are enough to keep one busy! But there are used furniture stores, junk shops, restaurants, fast food, slow food, cafes, Mexican food, barbeque, Tex-Mex . . . did I mention the food?

After many years of frustration, life and circumstances not allowing me to return to Texas, I have decided to write again as a way to explore new possibilities in my life.  The great American novel it will not be, but the research I am doing for my first attempt at a real work of fiction has led me back to Texas.  I cannot move to Texas at this time in my life, can't even take a road trip right now, but I can travel back there anytime I like virtually.  Today I start having Texas Adventures in New England!