That old advice has taken on new meaning for me lately. I visited the other night with a good friend who lived in Texas forty years but, twenty years ago, moved to Manhattan where she is deliciously happy. When we were driving to dinner, the western sky was painted a beautiful gold with streaks of red, and she said, “I never see sunsets.” Well, of course she doesn’t. The tall buildings get in the way. But that one remark sort of summed up for me the differences in our lifestyles. That, and the fact that she, once a southerner, said she never felt at home in Texas.
As a transplanted northerner, I think I always felt at home in Texas. Maybe the only other place I’ve felt that way was Santa Fe, and I think what I thought were echoes of an earlier life there were simply hidden memories of a trip there in my late teens.
When my ex-husband first explored moving to Texas for training as a surgical resident, I was surprised and slightly appalled. To me, it was a foreign country. His mother, a Jewish woman from the Bronx, was horrified, and believed until her dying day that Indians (she would never know the term Native Americans) would jump out at her from the bushes.
As we drove across Oklahoma, that long-ago spring, for our first visit to Texas, I was impressed by how lush and green everything was. Pastures and fields were dotted with blooming plum thickets, and it was all lovely. “Just wait,” he said, “everything will be barren and brown.” He had been to Turkey, Texas for a funeral—his one previous visit. I thought perhaps a curtain would fall when we crossed the Red River. To add to my confusion, my parents had been to Texas to visit my brother, then stationed at the Corpus Christi Naval Station. They described a lush tropical land with palm trees. I rode with puzzlement and anticipation.
OF course I found North Texas wasn’t that much different from Missouri, where we’d been living. Hotter, of course, but not a foreign land—at first. But the longer I lived here, the more I realized that it is a different place, a different way of life, one that got under my skin. My process of acclimatization was helped by my study of the literature of the American West in graduate school. I soon found myself immersed in Texas history and lore, and I loved it. By the time my kids were born, I was a tad resentful that they were native Texans while the stigma of an outsider clung to me.
My ex- always thought pastures would be greener on the other side of anywhere. Finally, several years after we divorced, he moved to California. I stayed in Texas. After all, I had those four native Texans to raise. Besides, I had a job I enjoyed with TCU Press, and I was still deep in Texas history and lore. Over the years a few places have called to me, mostly Santa Fe, and a few more lucrative job opportunities beckoned, but I stayed where we had a comfortable life and lots of friends.
Now at my advanced age—the kids call it elderly—I feel very much a Texan, and I cannot imagine pulling up stakes. I have watched other friends leave—one lives in the DC area but hungers for retirement in Texas; another left because she could not stand the politics—and I’ve marveled at their adjustment to other places and climes.
Yes, I too hate the politics of Texas, but I see that slowly changing, and I am encouraged. I don’t particularly like the hot summers, but I am grateful to be away from Chicago winters. I love the people of Texas—not all of them, but most of them. I love the history and folklore, the architecture, and, yes, the wildly varying landscape. I am glad I was planted in Texas.
My New York friend? We had a delightful dinner, reminiscing, catching up on families and people and everyday life. And she sort of nailed Texas when she talked about the dichotomy she found—driving around the city, seeing all the familiar places, and then, she said shaking her head unbelievably, “there’s all that newness.”