Sixteen years ago this week I was unpacking boxes in my first Austin apartment after U-Hauling it from Ohio with my friend Cynthia. There was a Nissan Sentra hitched to the back and the man who hooked it up said, “From here out out, there is no backing up.” I drove away from Cincinnati in a Rosie the Riveter t-shirt and with no idea what I was heading toward. We crossed into Kentucky and Tennessee, saw the Mississippi running below the bridge and commented on the bad roads in Arkansas. And then I was in the state I’d call home for decades to come. On August 12 I wrote in my journal, “My mind of late is on setting up house, and on bugs. Things flying and buzzing and crawling in this house. Welcome to Texas.” I’m amazed I made it this far.
The photo is from my Cincinnati going-away party, where I was given a cake in the shape of Texas. Really and truly, I’d never felt so special.
August 13, 2015
What was my favorite part of our Thursday night tour of the Blanton, Ray guiding us through? Maybe the chat in the parking lot afterwards. Maybe Laura saying she’ll come back with her daughter, Nelly saying that art speaks to her soul. Maybe Ray’s voice soft and leading us to circle the sculpture of the giant man with the woman on his shoulders. Maybe the cluster of students on gallery stools pondering pink dogs. Maybe the moment Norman Rockwell became someone with something to say. Maybe finding the trapeze artist still swinging toward us, defiance still on her face. Maybe Crystal’s picture taking. Maybe Joanna’s wondering if the lobby was marble. Maybe Ben standing quietly to the side, but watching. Maybe the first stop, all of us a bit breathless from the climb up the stairs, when we craned our necks to consider glider, butterflies, the possibility of flight.
February 19, 2015
In 1999 Marla picks me up from the old airport and introduces me to Austin. She sends me to lunch with a poetry professor, deposits me in a workshop in the book-lined room upstairs. She guides me home with Gaye to her enormous condo. She points me north to walk through Hyde Park for a few hours. She tells me where I might live. Someday we will be swapping recommendations for HVAC installations, discussing the merits of two-stage versus variable systems. Someday I’ll be admiring the string of vintage Valentines hanging above her dining room table. It is coming. We just don’t know it yet.
February 14, 2015
Choose your setting for celebration. Break rooms. Hallways. The tiny apartments we gathered in for grad school fetes. Decks with mosquitoes buzzing. Kitchens. When we married, we said our vows in the front yard’s patchy grass, danced in the back where the land slopes slightly toward the river. With a handful of Hershey’s kisses and a few rolls of streamers, we turn the Free Minds classroom into a holiday space. Kitchens, again. Asphalt parking lots with the car doors open for music. Restaurant back rooms. And last night, at the old school gym, they rolled out a red carpet. This is not a metaphor. A red carpet unfurled to the door, lined with candles. We walked it, piled our jackets on a back press. We watched the band play under a rack of medicine balls. Colored lights spun.
February 5, 2015