Driving around the old stomping grounds with unbridled time is something I've missed since moving to Atlanta then NYC (or really, since having children and being a corporate wife) and what a gas, gas, gas it is. Who says empty nest is boring? Press the pedal to the metal and...hello world again.
When you have real friends, time can pass and you can pick up where you last left off. What a blessing. We lingered over long breakfasts, and dinners at hole-in-the-walls and spiffy haute places in Houston and could have stayed forever, catching up with friends. Houston real estate has more than tripled in home prices in some areas since we purchased homes there. We witnessed a little girl, all grown up, standing before a female minister to say "I do". Her mom looks the same, just the same, and found her dress (of all places?) in Santa Fe. And I found my mother-of-the-bride dress in NYC on Madison, fearful I wouldn't find one in Santa Fe after we left Manhattan. My husband flies out of Dallas and S.W. Airlines has an unplanned landing in Lubbock due to engine failure while I drive on. and on. and on.
My uncle talks like my Dad and walks like my cousin and looks like my grandfather and still lives in his same house in that little tiny Texas town I last visited over 12 years ago. My aunt can still joke and wore her diamond necklace and gold earrings and ladybug pin, even with the drag of Alzheimers. One cousin's son remembered me after 15 years -- half of his life. Another relative shows me her law office and her grandmother's (my great-grandmother's) law school diploma/bar certificate hanging beside her husband's and other family heirlooms. My mother's first cousin tells me tales of his endeavors with more enthusiasm than I've ever heard from him and I wonder how years pass fast with geographical distance separating these ties.
My childhood friends and acquaintances fill me in on all that has happened. Oklahoma still doesn't have good grocery stores, Texas blue laws are still in effect, The Daily Oklahoman has a front-page story on coon hunting (just sayin' - and you wonder why people make fun of Oklahoma?) and the talk is about the name of the new basketball team coming to town ("surely not the Okie Dokies" one man on a treadmill at the YMCA says next to me). The owners get a $60 million tax break for bringing the Seattle Sonics to the city. Helps when the old boys can get stuff done so taxpayers pay, right? I note my parents are top ranked weight lifters according to the March reports from the weight machines. Pretty good for 70-somethings. They go to two funerals a day sometimes. My mother doesn't break a sweat on the eliptical. I've toted a case of wine to my mother for mother's day -- delivered to New Mexico from Napa Valley and lugged all over Texas before I bring it to her, all because of Oklahoma's prohibition-era laws on liquor, still on the books, that preclude delivery of wine. This is why, Dad says, that Whole Foods won't come to town (still, he's trying, and tells me Tulsa has one so soon they might). Dad tells me of conversations with Tulsa's mayor, a college friend, who I say might be governor some day or go even higher.
I watch American Idol with my husband's god daughter. What a moment to savor. Her comments clue me in moment by moment -- I'd be totally clueless otherwise. I watch Rev. Wright's speeches that my mother pulls up on tv and marvel at her reaction. I tell my Dad to be careful with his categories -- that just as Obama, half-white, half-black, is known as black, Dad, a lapel-flag wearing Republican, might be known as a grumpy old white man.
I drive by my great-grandmother's house with my childhood best lasting friend who shows me where her mother grew up. This fabric of relationships, born from growing up in the same place as my great-grandparents, all close together, makes me sad for what my children don't have, with all the moves and such. My mother appreciates me smelling like fish --staying past my three-day limit of the last 28 years (you know, guests and fish stink after three days). My mother tapes her tv shows so she speeds through commercials watching Dr. Phil and his special on the polygamy affairs in Texas while she does her back exercises at 8:00 a.m. and I try to deal with email on the road on her computer. She turns the tv so I can see it in the mirror. The YMCA doesn't show Dr. Phil and Oprah on the exercise tv's she tells me, because they've gotten too racy. Meanwhile, the Texas governor ignores the polygamist story and Houston Mayor Mark White throws his hat in the ring for governor and Kay Bailey Hutchison is too old to be McCain's vp so she's running for Texas governor, too. I talk to an Oklahoman about New Orleans culture (her newly married daughter is there), equating learning how to maneuver the culture of Mardi Gras is similar to that of learning cultural affairs elsewhere. Shoot, I had to tell my daughter who moved to Dallas that you have to say in conversations: How 'bout them Cowboys.
Life is just a gas. I wish Oklahoma had a better national reputation and it makes me sad for it. I cringed when Rhea published the link to IF Celebrities Moved to Oklahoma. The fatness of the population was much discussed whilst I was there (the Mayor of Oklahoma City has a diet challenge out) and I noted when I moved from there the one mile in the Edmond suburb where I lived had the highest density of fast food places in the nation at that time. My friend says: Well, when a fast food burger is cheaper than what you can pay to make it yourself, what do you expect?
And the new oil and gas boom is playing out all over. Houston and DFW are humming along with Oklahoma City and cranes are everywhere. The Dallas/Ft.Worth Metro area has surpassed Houston so it is now NYC, L.A., Chicago, D/FW then Houston for the ranking. And I've lived in three of the five and am now back to small towns (Santa Fe is the smallest yet!). The increase in the price of steel is impacting oil and gas producers. My Dad tells me more than once the price he paid for Chesapeake stock way back when, now that it us up, up, up. The expansion of Chesapeake's campus and Devon Energy's announcement of hiring Hines to develop a new downtown skyscraper in Oklahoma City is the talk of the town. TCU in Fort Worth is getting over $9 million a month in oil/gas royalties. One Texas friend sends me this pic of gas prices. LOL. right. Those high gas prices, a real killer for this road trip.