Friday, August 11, 2017

What We Leave Behind

Most of you should probably have heard this. If not, you may need to sit down.

My family is--FINALLY--moving to Taylor, Arizona.

So, for anyone in my family or who’s a friend/associate of ours from the Grand Canyon state, yay, it’s good news. If you live in Utah you’ll probably be seeing more of us (I know I’ll enjoy having them close enough to take an occasional weekend trip). And I’m relieved that Dad decided to do this before the Second Coming.

But for our friends back in Texas, it’s kind of a bittersweet moment. Dad moved out to a little town east of San Antonio called Seguin (SEH-geen) to work at the Motorola plant not quite thirty years ago. Motorola has come and gone, but Dad brought Mom to live there and they raised five of us down in a little house right off of 1-10. We went to church in Seguin and school in Marion and although we didn’t have all the cool toys or watch all the popular TV shows we had books and friends and cats and that was enough. I don’t think the people we’ve known and loved in the area can imagine what the world is going to be like without us. I know I can’t.

View out my dad's office window. Notice the goats--
this was obviously a very long time ago

I don’t miss Texas a lot. I had bad experiences at school--some of them, yes, featured me getting bullied. Right up through Senior year. I don’t miss having to drive everywhere to get to a store or to church or to town, half the reason I never moved back. I don’t miss the humidity. Or the bugs--especially the spiders. I won’t miss the floods, and chances are where we’re going we won’t see so many of them. I won’t miss the rattlesnakes we’d occasionally get in our barn, but where we’re going there might still, sadly, be rattlesnakes, probably a different subspecies but still.

I’ll tell you what I DO miss--what I AM going to miss now that my family isn’t there anymore.

I’m going to miss our little house in the country that had grass just soft enough to walk on in the yard. We have like five pecan trees that give us nuts in the fall and in winter we crack them and give them away by the pound to friends and neighbors and ship them to far-off relatives. We have a field that we just let hay grow in and when I was younger dad would build us forts in the barn. Dad has tried getting into raising different kinds of animals--sheep, goats, rabbits pigeons, we were somewhat successful with chickens and ducks. The only critters that really flourished were the cats. We had a garden in the backyard and a little playground that got turned into a treehouse and then a fort that pretty much only the cats used. Part of the reason I turned out an introvert was because I lived too far away from friends to really hang out with them a lot. So that meant I could spend hours walking around in circles around the house and the field and daydream or just go back inside to draw or to read or to watch movies.

Guadalupe River crossing at US 90.

I'm going to miss the hills. Out where I lived there were just low rolling ones everywhere. If you're from Utah, it can seem kind of flat, but compared to, say, Lubbock, it's actually interesting terrain. I thought it was beautiful--it was the most beauty I got to see from day-to-day. And then every so often, my family would drive out into the Hill Country just a little to the west. Big, steep hills covered with brambly forests, a lot less civilized. Definitely a wild place.

I’m going to miss the rolling fields of wheat and corn that line the roads, the pastures full of horses and cattle, the ruined barns and houses that dot the landscape, the thickets of live oak and mesquite that grow here and there. We are out in the boonies enough to still have that small-town/country feel with the authentic drawls and cowboy boots and hats, but close enough to civilization that we feel, well, civilized. Mom and Dad were never really part of that culture anyway--Mom’s from (urban) Utah and my dad’s from Arizona. I built up a tolerance for country music. Enough to say that I like Rascal Flatts and Carrie Underwood and to relate to the lyrics of a few popular singles that I can’t name the artists or titles to.

I might miss Marion, a little, actually. Runs to Dollar General, driving in early on 78 from early morning seminary in Seguin. A small school that doesn’t have a lot of electives but a staff of teachers that was so supportive and wonderful to me and my four siblings. And there was nothing quite like homecoming day when all the girls who were passionate about it wore those frilly, tinkling mums of green and white ribbons.

Pape's Pecan House, Seguin, TX

I’m going to miss Seguin. Driving over the Guadalupe River every time we’d go to town and savoring the view. The Victorian houses. Just driving down College street. The old-town feeling of Court Street, the square behind the courthouse with the fountain and the statue of Juan Seguin that I regret not visiting nearly enough. Don’t get me wrong, the little Mormon meetinghouse on King and College streets is pretty. But the other religious organizations in Seguin have some fine churches too. Driving into town from you can see all the steeples as you come down the hill, and you glimpse them close-up when you drive through town. And then there’s the stores where we’d do our grocery shopping and the old library and just the landmarks you’d learn from driving back and forth a million times. Lazy afternoons at Starke Park. A lot of it has changed, over the years--the old HEB is gone and they built a bigger one. Blockbuster is gone, of course--it got divided into a liquor store and a dental office. And there’s a big, brand new city library downtown.

I’m going to miss the nearby town of New Braunfels. Landa Park. Playing church basketball with the girls over there. Hobby Lobby and Target and all of the best shopping! The hotbed of local German culture and the Edelweiss Inn that was oddly enough featured in a movie I saw at BYU International Cinema. Clear they make onion rings like that anywhere else?

I’m going to miss the creeks and the little places for camping in and around Seguin and then the state parks up in the Hill Country (fall is the best time of year for camping in Texas, fall being November). The Hill Country, beautiful and remote and covered with wild forests. Wildflowers, every spring: bluebonnets, Indian paintbrushes, Indian blankets, primroses. Spring is my favorite time of year in Texas. It’s the best place in the world to be in springtime.

My favorite flower, Indian Paint Brush, along with Texas Blue Bonnets
More or less what our highways look like in the springtime, in a good year (Pinterest)

I never went to Austin very much--well, except their airport, but that is a small airport that tbh I am glad to see the last of for now. But everyone in that part of Texas knows that Downtown Austin is a place to be avoided at rush hour. The few times I have driven through downtown Austin, though, I loved it. We would combine with the stakes in Austin for Youth Conferences, and let me tell you Austin is where the cool (Mormon) kids are from. A lot of those cool kids are here in Provo.

When people ask me what part of Texas I’m from I say San Antonio. Because it IS the best part. Marion is close enough to the Alamo and the downtown museums that we took epic field trips in elementary school. My parents, they’re from out of state, and they’re...tourists, so they like taking us to the tourist magnet, the Riverwalk in downtown San Antonio, but it’s a beautiful place with bridges and boat rides and the best of local culture on display. Better than Venice. The zoo is...mediocre but the last time I went was over ten years ago. The Japanese Tea Gardens at Brackenridge park are spectacular.  I went on field trips to the auditorium at Trinity University to see plays based on classic short stories when I was in middle school. And then I graduated from high school in that auditorium.

Downtowm SA

San Antonio also has the best freaking NBA team. I am a Spurs fan for life.

The Church built a temple in San Antonio. It has beautiful stained-glass windows and in one of the ordinance rooms a mural of the Hill Country with wildflowers painted by a lady from my home ward, the late Ardyth Haecker. It was completed in 2005 and the night before the dedication I was part of an enormous cultural celebration in the Alamodome. The temple is on Stone Oak parkway, overlooking Loop 1604 (another place to avoid during rush hour), right on top of a hill at the edge of the Hill Country.

Corpus Christi is where my family would go to the beach. And it's getting its own post.

Gosh, I love Texas history. I grew up right in the middle of where some of the more significant events happened, so I’m biased. But we had our own war of Independence from Mexico. We had an epic last stand at the Alamo. I read a biography of Sam Houston a few years ago and let me tell you, we need more people like him in today’s government. He may have been from a pro-slavery state but he was vehemently against the other southern states’ wanting to break with the Union right up until the Civil War, at least that’s what I gathered.

And NO state has state pride like Texas. I may live anywhere else in the world, but I will always own my Texas pride.

I like to think that the Texas flag is made out of part of the US flag.

Edit of a personal photo of the Alamo

I’m going to miss the culture. There’s the cowboy/folk/country element, for sure. My brother David spent several years growing up playing fiddle at the local oprys and I went to a few of his shows--lemme tell ya. But there is also a strong Latino heritage in the area, lots of Spanish place names and architecture and glorious, glorious mariachi music.
Also, the FOOD. Food is very important in south-central-whatever-Texas. Everybody (except me) loves spicy food. My home ward would do a chili cookoff nearly every year. My mother is going to miss the tamales. I’m going to miss the breakfast tacos made on homemade flour tortillas, wrapped in tinfoil, stuffed with cheese, egg, potato sausage, bacon, onions, refried beans, and other fillings and toppings to taste.

Related image
arielle clementine
My mom served her mission in Houston, Spanish-speaking. We almost never went to Houston (but before the temple in San Antonio was built the adults in my ward would go to the temple there every so often, and let me tell you the Houston Temple is beautiful). But my mom learned to make somewhat authentic Mexican food--enchiladas, fajitas. We’re taking that with us. To this day a quesadilla is a staple of my diet.

I’m going to miss driving through West Texas. Yes, it’s a pain in the butt, but I learned to enjoy the ride, especially when every landmark we passed would mean we were that much closer to that somewhere else we wanted to be. You go into the Hill Country, and then pass through lots of plateaus and buttes right up until you reach Fort Stockton, and then after that you’re in a desert and it’s so barren that you can feel the moisture coming off your skin, but at least there’s mountains. And then, after like six hours and six hundred miles, you’re in El Paso.

Butte visible from Interstate 10 just outside of Fort Stockton

It’s not just saying goodbye to all of these places, though. Moving means saying goodbye to all of the people that my family has spent the last twenty-odd years building relationships with. Each ward unit in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is supposed to be like a family, but no ward IS a family more than the Seguin Ward of the Kyle Texas Stake. When my dad moved there, it was just a branch. There was a Spanish branch there for a little while, but we’ve been a ward since I was a kid. Dad got to be bishop for a little while, even. There weren’t a lot of girls in my young women’s group, but they were some of my best friends growing up. Our chapel has hymnals in both English and Spanish.

There’s a handful of families that have been there as long as Dad has, if not longer. And there are families that come and go that you never forget. Some of them are transplants from Utah/Idaho/Arizona, like my folks. Some of them are local. A lot of them are converts. We have dinners parties like no one’s business--Thanksgiving, Christmas, Halloween, boy scout fundraisers, that sort of thing. Back in the day when General Conference was only broadcast to the chapels we would have pot-lucks in between the Sunday sessions.  And yes, we take turns feeding the missionaries.

LDS Chapel, Seguin

On the Stake level, we’ve made a lot of unforgettable friends too. Up until 2008, we were part of the San Antonio East Stake. Then we got put into the Kyle stake. Our stake center in Kyle is a 45-minute drive from my house and it made no sense for my family to attend functions there. But we stuck it out. We made it work. We have friends clear up and down I-35 from the east side of San Antonio to New Braunfels to Buda, friends with whom we share a common faith. After Dad got released from being bishop he served off and on in the high councils of both stakes. Since he and mom both speak fluent Spanish they have usually been assigned to work with the Spanish-speaking members on ward and stake levels.

We have friends outside of the church, too. My mom says that her co-workers at the Seguin hospital are like family to her, and she will miss them. I didn’t have a lot of friends at school--I had social problems. The few I did have were priceless. I sadly didn’t realize it until my last couple years of high school. But I did learn. No one can ever take their place.

Texas was never home for my mom and dad. Other people who live there, they have their parents and siblings and aunts and uncles and cousins living close by, they get together every so often. We have to travel out of state to see our extended family. But now Dad is moving back to his hometown, we’re renting a house from his aunt right next door to a place where one of my cousins is living and a couple of doors down from a few other cousins. It takes two minutes to drive to his mom’s house, but if there’s good weather and you feel up to it you can walk.  Mom can take weekend trips up to Utah to see her family. That’s their idea of being home. So I’m happy for them. And I’m happy for my younger siblings who get to have that experience.

Winter Sunset, I-10 West of Seguin

That little house in Texas is home to me in the sense that it’s where my story began. It’s the place that, after much trial and adversity, I was able to get away from in order to accomplish Great Things™. It’s enough of a home that I have a few ideas for potential fantasy novels set in that region, so if I want to take a trip back I can definitely call it “book research”. If I’m ever successful as an author, I will come back for book tours and give inspirational speeches to kids telling them that they should read books and go places in life. Yes, Texas is home, but there is so much more to the world.

So the Cole family is leaving Texas. We're going to be closer to our extended family. But we will miss the family that we had here. We will remember it as a place of the world that we made a little brighter. That is reason enough to say we’re happy that we were there.

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