Saturday, March 12, 2011

In Vinto Veritas: Homesick

It's one of those nights again: I've had a little too much wine.

And it's that time of year again: when I truly pine for Texas. It's Springtime. That means South by Southwest in Austin in March and Fiesta San Antonio in April. Neither of which I've been to, but each of which I'd love to. SXSW is more on my bucket list than Fiesta, but I've been curious about Fiesta and all the ensuing pageantry since I was a little girl.

I've also been curious to see Las Posadas in San Antonio since I was a little girl, too. It's the Christmas story told on the Riverwalk. From what I understand, Joseph and Mary float down the Riverwalk seeking shelter from those along the river. I'm not sure where it ends. But who cares? It's a Mexican tradition. And a Texas tradition.

So many Texas traditions I've not yet been a part of: Fiesta San Antonio, SXSW, Las Posadas, Tyler Rose Festival, Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, Fort Worth Stockyards Parade ... and I'm sure there are more. I just can't think of them all in my state: slightly inebriated and estranged from Texas for a decade.

Nonetheless, Spring is when the stirrings of homesickness begin. Probably with SXSW; just because I've been wanting to go since I was a young teen and first learned of it. Long before there was the film festival; long before the digital/interactive aspect. Back when it was just music. Indie music, at that. Not because I've ever been a great connoisseur of music trends, but because when you're 15 and live in the geographical middle of nowhere - where the local station (the only one for 100 miles, no kidding) plays only big band and bad country - you cling to every shred of anything that is unconventional. I have friends in Austin, which means I see the daily SXSW update on their Facebook feeds; I have friends who frequent SXSW, which means the same. And each time I read them, the 15-year-old still inside me who felt ike such a mis-fit - the rectangular peg in the oval hole of her small town (yes, I meant that) - tingles with a dash of envy and excitement.

There's also the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. A few years ago, my brother, on a whim, asked if I wanted to come down for a Robert Earl Keen concert at the Livestock Show. ... in case you haven't guessed: it's not a one-day event. It's several. It's huge. It's typically in February, which technically isn't Spring, but in Houston - yeah it is. I couldn't go. But I would've LOVED to. I love REK. And I luuuurrve my brother. Robert Earl Keen performing and me and my brother downing Shiner Bocks and whooping along would've been a fuckin' awesome night!

City festivals aside, there is also the blooming of Texas' flowers in Spring that lures my fancy. Whether the Honeysuckle that grew on our fence in the Panhandle - a scent which can still bring me great comfort, to this day - or the bluebonnets that start to sprout in the desert and central part of the state, or the tall yucca, or the little yellow dollops of sunshine along the roadsides in West Texas that a friend of ours used to call "Bouncing Betties," the local flora blooming brought me joy. As a teenager, I used to pluck the wild bluebonnets that grew in our yard and wear them in my hair.

And then there's the torrential weather. Great beauty cannot come without great torment. I am terrified of tornadoes. I won't lie. Less so than say, tsunamis or earthquakes, but probably because I grew up with a killer threat from the sky. But you know it's Spring in Texas when you've got torrential downpours and micro bursts and tornado warnings one day and then the most glorious God-kissed skies you could ever imagine for the next three days. We had a tornado warning here the other day, but I didn't bat an eye, because I know the tornadoes on the East Coast don't take you to Oz. They don't even take you to the neighborhood bar. The torrential weather in Texas doesn't take you to Oz. It's crazy enough that it brings Oz to you. I don't miss the storms. But I do miss the gorgeousness otherwise.

I miss the Spring in Texas: when things are just waking up and laughing. When the end of school is just weeks away. When Spring Break - typically the first or second week of March - is warm enough that you can stay put and it'll still feel like Spring: sunny and warmth a-breakin'. Except for in the Panhandle, where it's kind of hit or miss. Spring, when UIL One-Act plays around the state are being competed, as are other UIL academic competitions: it's like March Madness for nerds!

I don't know if I would still be homesick if friends didn't Tweet and Facebook from SXSW. Or if they didn't email me pictures of them in endless fields of bluebonnets when the trees are still barren here. Or if I didn't know that that by this Easter, the schoolkids of Texas would be counting down only 4 or 5 weeks to their summer escape, when the kids here still had 8 - 10 weeks to go. (I'm seriously in touch with my inner 4th-grader!) But I know these things; I receive these things. And so, I get a touch of homesickness.

March 2nd was Texas Independence Day. It's a day I don't recall commemorating much in Texas (at least not beyond the sesqui-centennial in 1986), but one that has carried more importance to me since I've lived on the East Coast. I ended up taking my daughter to a Texas-themed restaurant for lunch to celebrate. It's a poor facsimile, but we made do. And it was a warm blanket around my shoulders on that chilly day. It was my pretend Spring Break in my pretend Home. And I genuinely liked it for the little time I got to have.

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