April 3, 2008

Where I come from

I was born and raised in a small Texas town on the Gulf Coast. Groves, TX. A town full of oil refineries, supermarkets, churches and one-level brick houses where snow cones are a summer staple, Texas flags are flown proudly and high school football is king. And growing up, all I wanted to do was get out.

When you’re a teenager in Groves, TX, your days are usually spent listening to indie rock bands, wearing trendy thrift-store clothes, sipping lattes, reading books on philosophy and politics and basically doing anything un-Groves, TX.

The kids in Groves, TX, are not the kids you see on those feel-good Southern movies about football and first loves. No, the kids in Groves, TX, spend their whole lives wishing they were anywhere but there and counting the days until they can leave.

So, when my plans to move to Los Angeles went through, you can imagine my happiness. The day I signed the lease on my very own LA studio, I vowed to become an LA woman and leave Groves, TX, far, far behind.

And I did a pretty good job of it, if I do say so myself. I lost most of my southern accent within a couple of months and picked up a nice west coast one that I thought made me sound more intellectual. I listened to all the hippest music, went to all the hippest shows and wore all the hippest clothes. I even began to eat like a west coaster. Gone were the sweet potatoes and macaroni and cheese. In their place were hummus and pita bread, raw vegetables and organic milk.

I had arrived! Or so I thought. Until I met someone who changed everything.

Born in Idaho and raised in Eastern Washington State, the person I met had the complete opposite mindset from mine, and at first, it drove me nuts. Raised on a farm in the middle of nothing but rolling wheat fields, this guy absolutely loved where he came from. Then again, maybe love isn’t the right word. He was obsessed with where he came from. He could spend hours upon hours talking about the city he grew up in and the people that live there and the memories he had made growing up. He talked about small town family values and dirt roads and the struggles of modern-day farmers, and I listened with amazed ears. I had never met someone so proud of where they came from, and it got me wondering if I had possibly been too quick to shake the Texas soil off my shoes.

This crazy farm kid somehow managed to blend his country ways with the city’s ways and create a life that was irresistibly fun, and before I knew it, old stories about creek swimming and dock fishing and snow cone eating were bubbling up in my mind and making me really, really happy.

That’s when it hit me: If this guy could manage to be both LA-trendy and farm-fed-fun, then I could, too. And in that moment, I went from running from my roots to embracing them with all my might.

Since then, a lot has changed. These days, I can’t go 24 hours without some good old country music, and I’ve added foods like sweet potatoes and baked beans back into my diet. On any given day, you might hear me boasting about my line dancing skills, joking about my flannel-wearing uncles, raving about crawfish boils, or reminiscing about my visits home when I get to swim in lakes, drink sweet tea, ride four wheelers and wear cut-offs to dinner.

But the most significant change can be seen when people ask me where I’m from. I find that I no longer wish I could say LA. Instead, I smile my sweet southern smile and proudly say, “I’m from Texas. Never been? Well, ya’ll should go there one day. It’s a mighty fine place.”

I never thought a boy from the north living in the west could help a girl from the south find her way home, but I’ll always be so glad that he did.

4 comments:

Mr. Kale Iverson said...

I was going to try and stop commenting so much on your blog, but this one I can't let pass. I can't pass sharing stories on the Factor.

The Factor, is simply a guy with a secret to life. You can see it in his eyes. And, he is selective on who he shares it with. He's infectious, with his sly mischievous personality.

When I met the Factor, he took me under his wing. He changed me a lot too. He was older and wiser and well traveled. He was an eastern Washingtonian like me, liked the classic things that make us American, parades, fairs, the land, the respect of a hard American days work, steak, good runnin' automobiles, chopping wood, and so on. But his parents gave him the hippie roots too. He loved the Doors like I did, and the Dead, nature, camping and all the 60's and 70's stuff that we grew up hearing about.

There are so many stories about the two of us, that I'll have to tell them to you in person this summer.

Here are a couple that are both appropriate and telling of his essence.

1st: On my 21st birthday he drove me out into the wheat fields of the Palouse and made me shoot a shotgun and a thirty ot Six so that I could "become a man." He said how can you know where you stand if you never fired a gun. I missed the target every time. He did not. I Went deaf too. And my shoulder hurt. Thats America right there.

2nd: Factor and I used to Put on Kylie Minogue as a motivator to get the apartment clean quicker. The faster we worked, the less Kylie we HAD to listen to. Unfortunately, the Factor and I began to like it. Eventually we started to look forward to dishes and cleaning because we could rock out to Kylie in Starbucks aprons he stole from work. Same guy, kind of unbelievable.

He's one of the only people I don't get sad about saying goodbye too. I've seen too far into the future and me and him will probably be getting into trouble together for the rest of our lives, at an old folks home in our boat shoes and fanny packs, trading meds and running an old folks poker casino under the table. You know why, because misbehavior is American and so is the Factor.

As for you, I think life is like being a collector, and we just go along collecting the best of our experiences. Never forget your old fashioned roots, but don't deny the new experiences. It all part of how we blend together to become who we are. The trick is to select the good and learn from the bad.

This post made my day.

Anonymous said...

Down home where they know you by name and treat you like family
Down home a man's good word and a handshake are all you need
Folks know if they're fallin on hard times they can fall back on
Those of us raised up down home

breakfast in canaca said...

This Boyle Heights Chica is proud to be Xicana, Mexicana, Tejana, and a LA girl and makes sure everyone knows it! I'm from Boyle Heights, Califas, and what?!?!

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