Wednesday, December 14, 2011

“Cows in the Road”

In route to Doolin, Ireland Sept. 2010
          When my father first met my mother, he told her he and his family owned “land in Texas.” Although my mother’s family no longer owned their farm in Illinois, others in her family still farmed their acreage. Visions of Giant must have briefly flashed through my mother’s mind until my father jokingly admitted that the “land” consisted of the two plots his parents and aunt owned in League City, Texas. My mother, interested more in Dad’s good looks than his possible oil rigs or herds of cattle, married him anyway.
          As a couple, my parents moved frequently. During the first few years, Dad’s training took him to twenty-four different places, and my mother followed him each time. In later years, they entertained us kids with tales of Texas Panhandle dust, Shreveport gumbo, and Florida lizards big enough to ride. By the time I came along, Dad had completed his training and began three or four year assignments in exotic places like New Jersey and Delaware. After a year in Vietnam, Dad decided to say goodbye to Air Force life and retired in San Antonio, Texas. He wished to be closer to his own aging mother and great aunt, who still resided on the family “estate” in League City, but he didn’t want to be too close.
          My siblings and I, transplanted so many times in our childhood, fixed deep roots in Texas. If you heard my sister speak, you’d never suspect she’d lived anywhere but here. Having spent from the age of two to five in New Jersey, I had a different accent for quite a while, and my blended twang belongs uniquely to me. My brother, somehow, escaped the Texas drawl. All three of us have never thought about leaving the state. As a matter of fact, my brother lives in my parents’ home while Mom’s living with us. My sister and her husband landed in Bay City after they graduated from college thirty-seven years ago, and David and I settled back in San Antonio as soon as I graduated from college.
          Now, I don’t go around claiming Texas is the grandest state in the nation. Nor do I deride others for living in different states. Most of the time, I muddle through each day without much claim to “Texas Pride.” When we travel to other states, I enjoy the beauty and unique features of each place, but I’ve always been glad to return home—until Ireland.
          David and I try to spend our vacations in new places, but we talk of returning to Ireland eventually. On our last trek up to our cabin in the Hill Country, the summer’s drought scorched everything in sight. The contrast to Ireland’s lush green made me wince. Clouds of dust enveloped our SUV as we snaked down our rocky road, and we stopped for some cows in the road.  Instantly, I transported to another street. This lane, slicked wet by an earlier rain, rolled among soft green hills. We paused in our journey on this faraway track because of cows in the road.
          I know the “What if we leave Texas?” temptation is only a game we play. We’ll cling to our soft hills, green only in the spring, and our winding rugged roads because our roots have fastened themselves so deeply below the rocky ground (probably in search of water).

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

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