I mean, I loved growing up in Fort Worth as a little girl, hitting up the stock show and rodeo with my grandparents, eating Frito pie, and running through the sprinklers in summertime when the grass was scorched yellow and the June bugs had all dropped dead from the heat.
But then we moved to Houston, and junior high and high school came along, and everything changed. Suddenly Texas was a place to escape from, not embrace. It felt close-minded, homogenous, behind the times. I could not wait to get out.
And so I did. At eighteen I hightailed it out of Houston for college in California. It wasn’t humid there. The people seemed open-minded and progressive. Jasmine bloomed and hot pink bougainvillea was abundant. I was in heaven. But a funny thing happens when you become a Texas expat. You fall madly in love with your home state, even if you weren’t so fond of it before. You claim (or reclaim) that identity: You are, first and foremost, a TEXAN. Even, or especially, if you’re living far away.
I missed my family back home, and the food (because no one makes icebox pie in Los Angeles), but what I really missed about Texas was something intangible and abstract. I wasn’t sure what I was so proud of, but I knew I was proud to come from there. Then one night several years back, when I was watching the great film Terms of Endearment for the sixteenth time, the reason for my longing became, for the first time, clear as day.
In the film, based on Larry McMurtry’s book, Debra Winger’s character moves to Iowa from Texas. She’s asked if she prefers Texas to Iowa, and her answer is, “I don’t know, there seems to be an absence of wildness, you know? Even in the people.” Her words felt so familiar. That was exactly what I loved and often missed – that wildness. And the longer I live away, and the more I travel around, the more I love it, and understand it, and hold onto it for dear life.
I know not everyone in Texas is apt to go skinny-dipping in a lake on a whim, and not everyone in Iowa is a big old bore. But I do believe that wildness is in the people, and I know it’s in me. And I’m pretty proud that.
I’ve thought of moving back over the years, but career and life have kept me away. For now I’ll keep on loving it from afar, and I’ll hold onto that Texas wildness, wherever the road takes me.