I grew up hearing a certain tale. My mother grew up hearing the tale. No one knew what really happened, so eighty years later, I decide to find out. I wonder how much closer to the truth we are now.
It is time to talk about Texas. Having returned earlier this week from a weekend in New York, with family and friends, so many friends at a high school reunion, it is time to talk about Texas. Oy.
A day or two before leaving, I saw something funny while jogging through my neighborhood, one of a few that have some vestiges of history. We live in a stone cottage, built in 1931. Many of the original houses have been torn down and replaced by oversized extravaganzas that stretch to lot lines and fake a European pedigree. Anyway, when I passed one, I saw a man holding a long brown object. He was standing at the base of a tree near the curb, lifting the long brown object overhead. It occurred to me, judging by his stance, that he was not poking at a cat with a broom. The man, in Polo–peach, with khaki Bermudas–was pointing a gun.
“Are you shooting at something with a rifle?” I couldn’t help but ask, slowing in front of his Bavarian castle.
“It’s just a BB,” he smiled, resting the weapon up against the trunk. He was a neat man, about 60, with well-snipped hair and a tank watch. His dog didn’t budge, his gaze fixed to the top of the tree.
Then, the man touched my shoulder in that amiable way, the way they do it here. “We have a lot of squirrels,” he said.
We have a lot of squirrels, I thought, but we don’t kill them with assault rifles. Across the street, a small child skipped from a car to her front door. What if PoloMan was a bad shot? I snuck from his grip on my scapula and took off, reminded that I was, indeed, in Texas. I am a New Yorker. But I am in Texas. Save me.
At the reunion, most of my old pals asked when I would be coming home, or getting out, really, sounding like visitors at a jail. As a single mom, I have to abide by Texas laws that prevent me from moving across county lines, let alone state borders, or risk actual imprisonment. And I do not look good in orange. I am free to relocate with my girls if their Dad does first. If he goes 30 minutes north, I can go to Paris. That is a kooky law.
For now, though, despite the horror washed across my classmates’ collective face, I am faced with squirrel murderers, Bible belters, Republicans, and barbecue. I really hate the barbecue. They fry turkeys here, in huge vats of oil. Despite these troubling aspects of the place, my kids like it here, since it is all they know. We moved from Boston when they were ten and twenty months old. They are thriving and happy, and completely immersed in school and their assorted activities. They could be anywhere. I am in Texas.
They know, however, that they will be going to college in the northeast, anywhere from Virginia on up. The younger one knows that she won’t be visiting Mommy in Dallas for Thanksgiving during her freshman year. She’ll be finding me somewhere else. I suggested the other day that she skip a grade at some point in the next seven, but she thought she was already young in the class. They had a wonderful time running around my old high school and meeting my buddies and their kids, though they said it was odd seeing me with friends.
They want to go back, for a longer visit next time. I think we’ll do the college tour. At least they will be geographically desirable.