If you grew up in Texas (and so did your Daddy and his Daddy and all of their kinfolk), you don’t have much use for other states, especially those far away on the eastern seaboard. All those little jumbled up states that are so full of themselves with their blue blood and sacred battlegrounds– they don’t mean much to a Texan once you pass your fourth grade geography of the United States test.
However, in a burst of (unwarranted) academic arrogance, I made a few feeble attempts to muster support for my idea of an eastern destination for college. No one took that seriously. Where was I gonna go? Somewhere in Connecticut? Not a chance with my SAT score (decent verbal and squarely
below average math) and my pedigree. I may have been minor royalty in the late 1970s on a three-mile stretch of route 4 in Forreston, Texas by virtue of my Grandmother’s benevolence and my father’s charisma, but none of that mattered across the county line. It sure wouldn’t open any ivy-covered doors.
Putting Dartmouth, Princeton, and their ilk out of my brain, I made my way through a large (aren’t they all?) Texas state university, where a decent academic record became a passport out of the greatest state in the nation. (Full disclosure: the lowest grade on my college transcript is the unsightly B during my junior year. The course? Texas History. For shame.)
My subsequent bids for ivy education in both English and law were thwarted, though I at least received courteous rejection letters on paper bearing a fancy school seal– they all cited the “high volume of well-qualified candidates.”
I settled in a city that makes as much sense for a Texan as any other foreign locale. Chicago history boasts of stockyards and cowboys and bravado of its own. Its temperature is all midwestern, but its mentality has enough western lawlessness to remind me of home. Most importantly, Chicago doesn’t spend too much time gazing to the east or the west; it likes the view out its own window, thankyouverymuch.
But then one February afternoon, my California-born husband took my two kids to Costco without me. Before the garage door closed behind them, I’d hatched a plan. A summer writing program read my Google search. Links stared back at me. One of them was over there– way, way over there in ivy country in a single-syllable university that was the home to lots of presidents, and it accepted the actress who played Blossom to join its ranks. (Mayim Bialik). Most notably, it was the school that Rory Gilmore set her sights on in Gilmore Girls.
Folks, I’m so tempted to joke that its standards are slipping. But I won’t. For three more seconds, I am going to refrain from undermining my own process and say that it feels scary as hell to be packing for a summer writing course at . . . that place. I can’t even say it.
It feels like a betrayal of my Texas roots to succumb to the East’s siren song. I haven’t even lived in Texas since I was 22 years old. But for almost 2 decades I’ve remained aligned with Texas in some fundamental ways, if not with my property taxes. I can’t explain this. So, I won’t. Even to myself.
So please don’t tell Texas where I am going next week. I don’t want it to excommunicate me forever. It’s still recovering from the news that I bought a pair of cowboy boots at Target last year.
My plan is to load my iPod with hundreds of Willie songs and a coupla Bob Wills classics and head out to see what all the fuss is about out East. Then, I’ll learn all I can about writing because I have this great idea for a book about a young girl grappling with the meaning of home and memory and music and . . . TEXAS.