Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Can You Go Home Again?

Next week, we're going to Austin for a long weekend. I lived in Austin briefly as a child. My brother was born there. My dad went to the University of Texas. We're going to get the lay of the land, see what's what, check out the bats, etc. The last time I was in Texas was in September of 2010 I was in Arlington, Texas where I was born. I was there to attend my grandma's funeral. My brother and I made a very quick trip home to Texas.

We were living in Austin when my dad left grad school before finishing his PhD. With two little kids he needed a real job and he found one with IBM. I Been Moved. And we did. We moved a lot. At first, we moved in and around Texas. In a way, that was okay because we always had our grandparents living in Arlington. We went to Arlington all the time. I remember the towns on the route from Houston to Arlington. I knew we were getting closer when I heard those names - Ennis, Midlothian, Waxahachie.

Then we started moving out of Texas to Raleigh, North Carolina; San Marino, California; Westport, Connecticut; and finally Weston, Massachusetts. My last year of high school was in Weston, Massachusetts. That was a tough one. After high school, I went to Tulane University for college. I even moved during college - spending my junior year in Paris, France. Then I moved back to Weston, back to Westport, on to DC, back to New York, Raleigh again, and now I'm in Fairfield, Connecticut.

When you move as often as I do, you don't really have a place to call home. But I dream of a home. Some place I could go back to, eventually. Because I don't think Connecticut is it. I hope this isn't it. This can't be it, right?

My current home, Fairfield, is a cool little town.We're close enough to the City to take advantage of City life. We've got live music, some decent restaurants, a downtown and several beaches. I use the term beach loosely because here in Connecticut the beach is on Long Island Sound. It's rocky and the water shimmers with pollutants. But it's pretty from a distance. We lived here in Connecticut for almost 4 years when I was a kid. That was a long stretch for us. So I have many friends here, and I run into old friends all the time.

In September when I was in Arlington, I had this strange feeling about being in Texas. It felt familiar, like I think home must feel to people who lived somewhere all their lives. It was hot, the streets were wide and you could see everything because the land is so flat. Six Flags looked different, kind of small and run down. There are strip malls everywhere, not my favorite. But the feeling was familiar.

I was traveling with my brother Clay, the one from Austin. Clay spent the formative years of his life in Boston, going to high school there and then on to BU. Clay is not a patient person. I think this may be the result of the whole Boston thing. Angriest drivers on the planet, but that's another story.

In my haste, to keep up with Clay and get out out of the airport rental car place, I left my bag of travel sample beauty products in the rental car bathroom. When we got to our hotel, I made a quick trip to the nearby Walgreens to replace said samples. A lady working at the cosmetic counter asked me if I was going somewhere. I explained that I was traveling here to Arlington for my grandma's funeral. She came around the counter and gave me a hug. Let me tell you, that would never happen in Connecticut. Not in a million years. Not if we were being attacked by aliens. And for a minute, I sort of freaked. It was so strange to me that people could be so sweet.

But that's how people are in Texas. Not all of them. And they may not mean it. But they say hello to strangers, they hold the door, they let you pull your car out of your parking spot without blasting their horns. And that feels familiar.

At Granny's funeral, we had the usual assortment of distant relatives, some of them examples of the worst of what a poor education, lack of job options, and growing up in the South can do to a person. But there's my Uncle David in his Wrangler jeans and cowboy hat and boots. Also a product of Texas.

It's kind of a funny story about Uncle David. Uncle David is my mother's brother. My mother that my dad is no longer married to. But Uncle David showed up to his ex-brother-in-law's mother's funeral, drove a ways because he lives in Grandview now. He drove up because that's what decent people do. We were all happy to see him, including my dad.

At the last minute, he became a pall bearer. My dad has replaced all his major joints at this point so David took his place when his knee started to falter, and he carried my grandmother to her grave. After the funeral, we said our goodbye's. David got in his huge truck and drove off. And my brother and I got on a plane back to New York, and back to Connecticut.

I don't know where I'll end up, but I hope I find home some day. Maybe in Austin. We'll see.


  1. I don't know who said "Home is where the heart is." but it's true. On the other hand Buckaroo Banzai said "Wherever you go, there you are." Both seem equally valid in making this kind of decision.

  2. I know what you mean about that familiar feeling. I grew up in the California Bay Area, but I've lived in NC far longer than CA. Yet when I've gone back, I've always felt, "This is the way the world should look." No matter that I hate the traffic, the sprawl and wall-to-wall ticky tacky. It will always feel like home in a way NC never will.

  3. Good one Beck, I can relate. Let me know if you find it...kinda confusing, isn't it? Hawaii seems to be the only one that works for me, oddly enough. Too bad there's no prospect of real work there. What's so wrong with a meth lab in the back and pakalolo smoking surfer kids?

  4. Becky, as someone who has shared a part of your life in Texas and a visit to North Carolina, I know exactly what you fact I have fond memories of sleep overs, your wonderfully funny brother Clay, your Mom & Dad and your grandparents...So for me, home will always be Texas, it's the accent, the decency, the people and the barbeque (although I've forgotten how to spell that) :) Allison

  5. Yes, you can go home again. I have twice when my old house off Greens Farms Road in Westport has come on the market. I posed as a house buyer and got to walk through every room and hallway. It was a five bedroom house and I had the smallest bedroom. The last time I was there my old room didn't have a bed, but did have three kitty litter boxes. Westport cats have it made.

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