Part of my heart is in Texas.
So I went there this weekend. To gather with family, to get lost in Dallas (a few times), to eat real, delicious, southern cooking, to laugh so hard I peed a little, to hug, to sweat in the humidity and curse the weather as my hair grew to twice its size, to sing, to enjoy wine surrounded by people who share the same bone structure, skin tone and fuzzy hair and most importantly to witness one of my younger cousins get married to her best friend.
And it was fantastic.
Because after an early morning wake up call letting us know the grandson/nephew was on his way and a 12 hour wait for his arrival, he entered this world just in time for us to get a quick snuggle, some photos and to pack and catch our plane.
250 miles away.
Because it’s a long wagon train outa here.
So as we were saying goodbye to our newest member, we were getting ready to welcome the next.
And, in case you were wondering, you can’t die of sleep deprivation or not bathing for three days in a row.
I know. I’ve tried.
(ahh, travel by plane).
But it was so worth it.
Because Texas, sweet Texas, North Dakota’s tanner, bigger breasted sister, was as sparkly and shiny as ever. With its big blue sky and rolling thunderheads, simply sophisticated stone houses, sexy drawl and cowboys with starched pants.
And as what appeared to be the North’s version of the Clampetts rolled into the Dallas airport, we were greeted by family from South Dakota and a cousin who flew the coop to Miami (and believe me, you could tell who came from where) and we all crammed into a baby blue mini-van with high hopes of making it into the city with help from the GPS systems loaded on our fancy cell phones (which turned out to be no help at all actually), the sweet Texas hospitality kicked in.
Upon hearing phrases like “you know,” “yah, sure” and my classic and irreplaceable “uff da” (yes, that actually comes out of my mouth despite my better judgment), the self-assured, tan Texans asked, “Where ya’ll from?”
And I responded more proudly than ever.
See I haven’t tried to hide my less sexy, less mysterious, less cool and less sultry and “Northern Drawl” for years. Because I learned my lesson about what happens when I try to fake it—it just creeps back in there in full force when I get excited…and I am a passionate woman, so it’s no use.
It’s all a part of growing up.
Anyway, as the lovely, accent free voice on the GPS took us just past the hotel, but not quite to the door about five times, sending us floundering back onto the jam packed interstate, multiple opinions flying, we finally decided to abandon technology and use the instincts we were born with to find the front door of the hotel.
And as we filed in, one by one, in all of our disheveled, sleep deprived, shell-shocked glory, there stood our beautiful southerly relatives with smiles as big as their Lone Star State waiting with open arms.
And yes, they were tan and clean cut and polished and starched and just a bit more fancy than what came out of that mini-van….
Yes, they looked like Texas. And they were representing well.
I’m afraid to say what we looked like.
But it didn’t matter, because right there in that hotel lobby, hugging the new babies, meeting the spouses for the second or third time, talking about the trip and making plans for the weekend, it was like we had never left one another.
It was like just yesterday we were all sleeping side by side in the basement of our grandparent’s house, searching for Easter eggs in the gumbo hills, falling in the black mud of the crick below the house, making snow men from our gramma’s bread dough, putting on productions of the Wizard of Oz and forcing all of the adults to watch as we did interpretive dances to “The Wind Beneath My Wings”….wait maybe that was just me.
And the truth is, it has been years. It has been years and miles and roads and states and plans and haircuts and schools and jobs and marriages and funerals and plans that have made us.
Plans that have broken us.
It has been years.
But we relive memories of our time at the ranch whenever we get together to make new ones. Because those memories we created as young as four and five and six have bound us together, all of us, the Kitten Caboodle Club, for life.
And as I watched my baby cousin, the one who used to run around the kiddie pool in her “wimming woot” with the hole cut out of the tummy, the one with dark brown ringlets and bright blue eyes, the girl who peed her pants and stepped in cactus every time we made our trek up to pots and pans, the girl who would stuff peas up her nose and put olives on her fingers at the dinner table every holiday, who was always laughing, always smiling, always had room for more love and life, walk down the aisle to join her man, the man she will start a whole new life with, all I could do is wish for her….
….to keep home, our home, in her heart and make a life for her children that is as wonderfully full of love and adventure and passion and imagination as our young lives were.
Because as much as this place, this landscape means to me, it means just as much to the people that surrounded me in that church that day. They were all seeing our little cousin in her white gown the way they remembered her–running wild at the ranch…ribbons and curls and cactus and excited laughter echoing off of the buttes and down the pink road.
And we may never be able to cram in on the couch at Christmastime in this little house like we did when we were munchkins.
We won’t ever all be able to all sleep together on gramma’s bed. We haven’t been that small for years. We may never even all be in the room together again…even this time we were missing one of the clan. And as time keeps ticking, we will utter each other’s names in phone calls and family updates and catch up with birthday cards and emails and an occasional call.
But it won’t matter.
It won’t matter at all.
Because we were lucky enough to spend our childhood in a magical place that has given us somewhere to pick up where we left off. No matter the time. No matter the distance.
It will always be here for you cousins.
I will do the best I can.
Because part of my heart is in Texas, another part in Miami, and Fargo, at South Dakota State University and just down the road and wherever my family may make their lives.
And the rest is here, waiting for you anytime you need it.