My daddy called me at about 4:00 and mentioned that he and Mom were going to spend the evening outdoors.
Gorgeous weather + kids who get fussy late in the day + mama who needs to get out of the house = inviting ourselves to join them!
I put on my cowboy boots and the old bootleg jeans that I typically save for experiences of the equestrian kind, pulled my hair back in a pony tail and grabbed an ugly jacket. We were going to traipse through a muddy forest! Yes! I'm not always an outdoorsy girl, but today I was feeling it.
We took a beautiful drive into the country. By the time we got to where we were going, we had about 40 minutes until sunset. We hiked along mushy paths, tripped on a few roots sticking out of the ground, ducked under branches and vines, and got a little dirty. My dad led us with Geli on a leash. He was wearing his cowboy hat and a Carharrt jacket with his typical Wranglers and boots. I felt proud to be the daughter of such a maverick. If you want to get an idea of what Texas is all about, spend a day with my dad. The attitude, the appearance, the speech, the dreams, the hard work, the independence - he is it.
Curtis carried Annabeth on his shoulders and Star, my mom's border collie, thought they were one horrible, frightening beast. Maybe it didn't help that AB was wearing her bear bunting. Jackson got to sit on the seat of a bulldozer for a few minutes. Dad offered to turn the thing on but Mom and I yelled NO! in unison.
We'd worked up an appetite, so we loaded our cold and foresty selves into our trucks and set out for some Mexican food. The moon was a tiny crescent in the sky, which always reminds me of a fingernail clipping. We passed a slew of fading farm houses and rusty metal barns that never cease to charm.
At the restaurant, we plowed through several baskets of chips and bowls of salsa. Jackson got a salting lesson. Colorful lights hung from the ceiling and made me feel warm. There were a few other families eating together. No one was fancy. We were miles from pretense.
An old Jerry Jeff Walker song played in the background. I called Dad's attention to it and he started singing Redneck Mother, which is a totally different song. A tacky one, in fact, that my equally maverick grandpa taught me when I was twelve.
Jackson got bored when the food was gone and wedged himself under Annabeth's high chair. A defiant minute later, mother and son made the march of shame to the bathroom for a moment of correction. My bark was worse than my bite, but I will not allow my son to disrespect me in front of my parents. Especially not with my boots on! He returned to the table happier than before. We had a few more moments and then the baby was done.
We said our goodbyes in a dusty parking lot. Pulling out, I noticed some stars for the first time in a while. I sighed happily and told Curtis I love being a Texan.
I love feeling at home in my big city - knowing how to navigate our ridiculous freeways, understanding that you can't slow down or you'll get hit. I love the view of the tree canopy that I see when I'm driving over the sky high Beltway 8 ramp onto I-10. Our city's too flat to see it otherwise.
I love the way men hold open doors and give up their seats for women. I love that if I say "What?" when my mama calls for me, she still corrects me with "Yes ma'am?" How many times a day do I say that to Jackson?
I love the diversity of this state. The doctor who delivered my boy was African American, his first pediatrician was Indian, our current doctor is from the Middle East, and Jackson's classmates come from many different cultures.
I love that Texans are generally warm-hearted, even if we do have a lot of pride.
I love that in a span of 48 hours I can shop at the Galleria in my nicest outfit and then turn around and do something a little country like stomp through the woods in an ugly coat. Or, my heavens, go to Monster Jam! I love that 90% of the concerts I've seen have been at the rodeo. I love the pines and the oaks and sometimes the palm trees, even though most of them probably didn't survive our freeze. I love that my dreams for Annabeth involve ballet shoes as well as horseshoes. I love that last night Curtis and I had a fancy steak dinner, but I would have been just as happy having a chicken fried steak at the Black Eyed Pea. (Although maybe not on the 14th of February.)
I love that in Texas I can be the city mouse or the country mouse, depending on the day. After all, the city and the country are both under the Lone Star. But tonight the country won me over.