It was hot.
There are many things I love about Alabama. The mountains, the rivers, the profusion of flowers every spring, the old homes built by people with an eye for style, the sweet tea.
But it is my adopted home.
I am a Texan. My two children are Texans. And one of the rules of being a Texan is that you are always a Texan, no matter how far you may roam from the motherland.
One of the more famous Texans, newspaper columnist Molly Ivins, once remarked that many Texans buy their first pair of cowboy boots only when they move out of state for the first time.
The further we get from the motherland, the more we have to assert our Texan-ness. (I know, that’s a made-up word. You could also spell it “obnoxiousness.”)
But we cannot stay away too long from the motherland. We have to come back and visit sometimes.
Even if it’s 104 degrees in the middle of a heat wave.
We spent the last week vacationing in Texas. Did I mention it was hot?
By the time we left, the temperature had reached 100 degrees for the past 20 days and counting. The lows were in the 80s. There was no rain. There has been no rain for more than 60 days.
The children kept begging to fry an egg on the sidewalk.
At least it’s a dry heat.
One telltale sign that I was back in Texas was that my allergies cleared up once I was no longer in the humid climes of Alabama.
Some other signs that I was back in the motherland:
1. The Tex-Mex food was loaded with jalapenos, enough to bring tears to the eyes of the one native Alabamian in the family.
2. The stores were stocked with Big Red soda. Big Red was invented in 1937 in Waco, Texas (same place they invented Dr Pepper), and for the next 40 years was sold mainly inside the state. Big Red tastes like liquid bubblegum, with bubbles. When I drink a Big Red, I am instantly transported back to summers spent at my grandmother’s house, when I would walk barefoot on the dirt roads down to the post office to collect the mail for my grandmother, and an ice-cold Big Red out of the soda machine for myself.
3. Here, instead of honey-mustard sauce, chicken fingers came with a bowl of cream gravy.
4. We saw cattle trucks on the road.
5. We saw a lot of road, too. Texas is big, 800 miles from one end to the other. You can’t go anywhere without getting on the freeway.
We rented a house for the week, an old farmhouse with rock walls (recently renovated and now air-conditioned; I may be a Texan but I’m not crazy). It was shaded by old, gnarled live oak trees, and had a wide porch that caught the occasional breeze.
The house sat in the middle of what used to be 100 acres of pastureland. There were no mountains or trees to block the view of the sunrise. Just sky, stretching out in every direction. Every evening, we took pictures of the sunset.
That’s how I really know I’m home. It’s flat in Texas.