Nine years ago today my family moved to Texas. Nine years ago yesterday was my 10th grade Homecoming dance and surprise going away after-party where I bawled and hugged and “I LOVE YOU’d” all of my best friends from the first 15 years of my life. I cried myself to sleep and then cried myself to the airport the next morning and then cried myself all the way to Texas. Seriously, the people on the plane must have thought my dad either just up and left us or did something so terrible that we were being forced into some kind of witness protection program in Houston because of all the wailing my brother and I were doing when we got on the plane. This wasn’t quiet crying or a little sniffle here and there. This was big, sloppy, heaving SOBBING agony and “why did Dad do this to us???” and “why do we have to leave??? PLEASE let me stay!!!!” Really it’s a good thing we moved in the pre-9/11 flight days because I honestly think we would have violated some kind of security code with our belligerent behavior.
My dad works in the oil industry and being that Texans pretty much piss oil on a daily basis (have you ever watched Dallas? Hello.) this is THE state to be in. For a few years before The Big Move we had been hearing rumors of my dad being relocated to random places, some within the US and some not, but I never thought about it much. I don’t think the fact that we were really going to Texas even hit me until a few days before we left. My mom and dad and brother had come out to Texas to go house-hunting a few months prior and I refused to go, saying Texas would never be HOME and that I didn’t care what we lived in because I wasn’t going to like it anyway. I never went through a typical angsty, rebellious teen phase, but I was pretty much a nightmare for my parents in the months leading up to leaving with all the attitude I was throwing around. My mom would have been completely justified in slapping my bitchy little mouth completely off my face.
I’d like to think now that I handled it better than that and really hadn’t been so mean to my parents for RUINING MY LIFE (I can be super dramatic when necessary…or completely unnecessary, in this case). I didn’t though. I didn’t handle it at all. I even asked my mom to divorce my dad, for Christ’s sake, because then I wouldn’t have to move and wouldn’t that alone make everyone happier? I kept telling everyone that I was only in Houston until I finished high school and then I was back on the Pacific Coast for college. Ah, the angry rants of a pissed off 15 year-old.
The first few months in Houston are still so fresh and sharp in my memory. For nine years to have gone by, it still feels very raw. Sometimes I still get bitter and wonder where I would be if we had stayed; would I have gone to college on a swimming scholarship, would I have majored in Marine Biology like I had always planned, would I have been a Grand Officer in Rainbow?
And then I am proud. During a time when it would have been very easy for our little family to fall apart and disconnect from each other, we didn’t. We stuck together and, as lame as it sounds, we became a hell of a lot closer. Instead of pushing my family away during my teen years, I clung to them. They were THE ONLY ones who really knew what it felt like to be going through what I was going through. My brother and I hung out all the time. We went to movies. I drove him around when I got my license. When one of us made a friend the new person became OUR friend. While we had many mutual friends in California, I think we would have drifted apart in high school had it not been for moving. Because we only had each other to talk to, I had to really focus on what he was saying to be part of the conversation. Normally, I think I had only half-way listened to him because there were always so many other things I could have been doing. During the months after the move, I found out my brother was sarcastic and driven and smarter than I’d ever thought. He’s one of my best friends and I don’t know that that would have happened like it did without the move to help it along.
My parents were pretty phenomenal through the whole thing too. We blamed my dad. A lot. And while I don’t know if I ever actually said those words to him, “It’s your fault!” I know I felt them at some point. There was always such a look of defeat in my dad’s eyes when he would get home from work, ask me how my day at school had been and only get an “I hate it here,” in reply. There was a lot of guilt during that time that I’ve just come to grips with and gotten over in the last few years because I had always been really close with both of my parents and feeling like my father was to blame felt damn painful. I knew he didn’t take the job in Houston to hurt me. I know that if he had known the utter and complete HELL he was creating for himself by moving the family he would have quit his job and become a fucking paperboy if it meant keeping us in Highland and avoiding all the drama. He moved us because he loved us and it was the right thing to do. I knew that then, but I really know it now. And there is not an “I’m Sorry” card in the world big enough to express my regret for making him feel like he was doing something wrong. I love you, Daddy.
Although my dad was the family scapegoat, it was my mom who had the hardest time I think. She was transplanted from "Most Popular Mom on the Block World" to "Just Another Mom on the Block World." I didn’t realize, while I was mourning the loss of my friends and familiar social life, that my mom was doing the same thing WHILE she was deflecting all the shit I was flinging violently in her direction. She tried to be as involved as we’d let her be, but when I was so against making friends in Houston there wasn’t a lot of room for her to be involved in anything. She tried desperately to make us happy, to help us adjust. We just pushed back so damn hard that her attempts didn’t stand a flying fucking chance. She had no one to talk to about what awful and terrible monsters her children were being except people back in California, on the phone. If I were her, I would have killed me. And then drank a big ass glass of wine and smoked a cigarette in celebration of the fact that I never had to deal with “I hate life and Texas sucks and California is the only place I will ever be happy” Cheryl Ann EVER AGAIN. But she didn’t. And I love her so goddamn much for that.
And while the whole thing just really fucking sucked, not ALL of what I remember about coming to Texas is unhappy. Some of those memories I can still see so clearly were full of happiness and the realization that things were actually getting better. There is a definite line in my life—Before Texas and Since Texas—but that line is blurring as more years pass. I still feel a twinge in my heart when a friend from California calls, or when I think of going back to visit. And even though I resisted for such a long time, Texas really is HOME now. I’d love to go back someday, when I can afford to live somewhere nicer than a box under Highway 5, but for now I am content with making my way in The Lone Star State, becoming more southern each day. I still avoid Rodeo like the plague, and I will never EVER wear Wranglers, but saying Ya’ll just makes more sense and cowboy hats and boots can be cute…sometimes. I’ll always be a California girl, but a little Texas showin' through every now and then really ain’t so bad.
***Gotta love perfectly timed horoscopes: “You are attached to your living space more strongly than most people and today reinforces that attitude considerably.”