Thursday, January 8, 2009

What is home?

I don't want to lose my Texas self. Already I feel the Northeast creeping in to my psyche. I'm telling myself it's not so cold at 40 degrees. I'm looking forward to snow. I'm thinking puffy coats are kind of cute and tall trees that I once complained blocked the sky are nice and shady. Fireplaces are cozy and hardwood and tall ceilings are a good substitute for concrete floors and open kitchens. Creative vegetarian food everywhere is worth giving up easy access to the best pork ribs I've ever tasted. Wait, I'm not there yet. In fact, I want to go to Luling right now! I know I have to do this to survive and be happy, but it's sad and confusing for my identity.

All these past 6 1/2 years, I've been learning to be a Texan, to use frontage roads, to know good BBQ and to automatically say "Y'all." I think the desert and scruffy juniper are beautiful, and I adore Live Oak trees, with their 200 year old sprawling limbs that stay green all winter. I've lived in Texas more than anywhere else, and I was just starting to feel like I had a home state, not just because of the years spent here, but because I wanted to be here and it made sense with who I am. If I live in Massachusetts, what does that mean? Does it mean I've abandoned my home? Does that mean something else is more important to me than place? That a person, a relationship, a job opportunity actually means more to me than the city or state or region I live in? I guess so, and that is pretty cool, but humbling, too. Because I admit that I have judged people before - country singers from Brooklyn- I've never believed them. Even though their lives may have been more full of rural life and tradition than mine, I have felt that because I lived in Texas, I was a more authentic artist. Who cares if I live in Austin, the fastest-growing, most educated, youngest, transient, artsy, latte-drinking, Prius-driving city in Texas, we still know how to Two-Step, even in the gay bars. Do I lose my legitimacy when I leave, or just my self-righteousness? And is that such a bad thing?

What scared me the most is that I'll lose the ability to call myself a Texan. Even though I've had to qualify it (I was born in Alabama), I realize it has felt good to have an answer when people ask me where I'm from. Even with all the explanations (We moved a lot, my Mom lives in Ohio...), when I said I was from Texas, it was really starting to feel true, emotionally at least. I'm from these big skies and long wide roads. I'm from these friendly people who brand everything with stars and add hot peppers to their cooking and turn on the air conditioning in December. I drink Shiner Bock beer and margaritas, because that's what we drink. We. Us Texans. Will I get to say that anymore? Will I feel that? Will Texas just recede in my identity and be just another place I've lived? Will I start to feel like a Massachusettsian (what are they called?) or a New Englander? or just rootless?

All this capitulating to the cold has reminded me of how adaptable I am. I pick up accents and colloquialisms everywhere I go. I'm open to new foods and have a great sense of direction. Lately, I've been taking comfort in my ability to adapt to new situations, fit in and change. It might be an even bigger part of my identity that my Texan-ness. I enjoy and crave going to new places, and for a while I even took pride in that. It felt cool to say that I'm from all over, I don't need a home. But in Austin, with all these friends, I made one anyway, almost without trying. And maybe I can adapt to a new place and make new friends and learn to love it, but will I make a home again?

It's always been pretty easy for me to move, and I had chalked that up to my adventurous spirit, but I've never really left a home. I've left places I knew I couldn't stay (college) and places I knew I didn't fit in (Portland). Now I'm up to a real challenge.

Massachusetts, please take it easy on me. Just give me a mild February, and I'll compost and honk my horn and eat chowder and even try snow-shoeing.

Austin, leave the light on.

4 comments:

orion said...

Once a Texan, always a Texan. It's more about the state of mind then the physical state.

I hope to make it up your way for a solo backpacking trip through the green mountains in the late summer.

Take Care,
Aaron Treptow

Hilary Martin said...

I wasn't born in Virgina, I haven't lived there since 1979, and I lived there continuously fewer years than I lived in California or Alabama. But I'm a Virginian. You'll be a Texan as long as your heart tells you that you're one.

Karen Duda said...

I'm totally with you on the teleportation thing. Hello, if Scotty could do it on Star Trek, why can't we.

Glad you'll be moving closer to NYC, as hopefully you'll be playing here more often. Good luck with the move.

Kin said...

Great job with BettySoo tonight! I am glad to have the oppurtunity to attend your last concert as a resident of Austin, TX.

God bless you and your new chapter in life :).