Monday, March 5, 2012

...Come back to Texas

Sunset in New Braunfels
The irony has never been lost on me that every time we have moved away from Texas, we have always returned. Like some kind of surreal boomerang, we have never stayed in Texas for longer than 3 or 4 years, but regardless of where we ventured to next, we always found ourselves back in the Lone Star State. Now, this is not some cyber-hint that we are moving back (we are very happy here in Lux Land and do not foresee a move on the near horizon). It is just one of those nostalgic kind of days where I can't help but reflect on this strange little detail about our somewhat nomadic lives.

Being the wife of a consultant has meant that I have always been flexible on where the wind (i.e., the next project) could blow us. Add to that the fact that both of us wanted to extend our education to include graduate school, it seems we have never been able to settle down in any one place for very long. Well... except Virginia. When Joe told me that we would be leaving Texas for the third time to what was once the capital of the Confederacy - honestly, I was not thrilled with the notion. I didn't know much about the place, so I quickly headed out to the bookstore to purchase a travel guide, just to see what we had gotten ourselves into. Chapter 1 highlights - Top Ten Civil War Sites to Visit. I have to admit, I think I cried when I read that. Fast forward nine years and I often find myself just as homesick for Virginia as I am for Texas. My kids basically grew up there, they still have their friends there, and they probably think of Virginia much the way I think of Texas - as home.

In 2005, just two years after we moved to Virginia, a band from Texas called Bowling for Soup (ironically, from Denton County where we had just moved from) put out a song called "Ohio (Come Back to Texas)." Now, I have never lived in Ohio (though I have visited a couple of times), but most of the song is actually about Texas. I remember listening to it in my car, always wondering when we would be heading back there next. I missed the Mexican food, the football, the Bluebell ice cream, and the beautiful Texas sunsets. I even made a couple of long road trips during our time in Virginia - just me and the boys - just so that they could get an idea of what it was about the state that I missed so much. I'm not sure if they ever really understood, but I do think that in their short year there they did develop a fondness, of sorts, for the sprawling land and warm weather (and, at least for my oldest, an appreciation for Texas sports.)

No visit to Texas is complete without a trip to Whataburger
Well, unlike most folks in Europe, who venture off in droves to the various ski resorts in France, Germany, Austria or Switzerland for their Carnival break, the boys and I once again headed back to Texas. Although Galveston may be known for their Mardi Gras celebrations, we headed back to Central Texas for other reasons than parades and beads. We went to visit family and to shop. It was the first time that we had been back since moving to Luxembourg, so the boys and I were quite anxious to get through the 25 hours of flights, layovers and customs/security lines. I really can't explain how much we perked up during our five hour layover in Houston when my brother and his wife picked us up from Houston International and took us to the closest Whataburger! For those of you unfamiliar with this Texas fast food joint, they serve an addictive version of hamburgers, fries and milkshakes that I was literally brought up on (Corpus Christi has the honor of being the birthplace of the company, as well as the location of their headquarters for many years). Thus began our week of indulging on "American" food - donuts, chips and salsa, tamales, fried chicken, chicken fried steak, fried catfish, Big Red soda, hamburgers, BBQ - the list goes on. As for restaurants, we hit Cracker Barrel, Chick-fil-a, Rudy's BBQ, the Hard Rock Cafe, Clear Springs, and Church's. I guess you could say, we had been in withdrawal of what I would deem traditional Southern cooking (aka, fried food and carbs). After 2 or 3 days of indulging, my stomach had had enough and I made the switch to salads and cereal. I quickly learned that the warning I had heard about our first trip back was true - once you have had all of the preservative-free, organic or farm-to-table type European meals for awhile, American food can play havoc with you. You really do begin to lose a taste for the stuff! In any case, the boys loved it and I let them indulge to their hearts' content, knowing that the week would fly by and no real harm would be done.

As for the shopping, my husband's extended family lives in New Braunfels, a short 30 minutes from San Antonio. Thankfully, Joe has two female cousins who also like to shop. They were exceedingly patient as I plowed my way through North Star mall and the outlets in San Marcos. Clothes are expensive in Europe, especially many of the American brands we never think twice about. For example, a simple pair of Levi's for my sons costs about 98 euros a pair here - I can get them for a quarter of the cost in the States. I spent two straight days buying clothes and food products. I swear, I must have looked like I was getting ready for armageddon, rather than just a trip back overseas. We took two extra duffle bags back to Luxembourg, filled to the seams with clothes, food (Pop Tarts, Toll House chocolate chips, Lucky Charms and Life cereals, beef jerky, Wheat Thins, etc.), OTC medicine (Dayquil, Advil, etc.) cosmetics and books. Many of the items I can't find in Europe, while others are just too pricey for me to stomach. In any case, I was fortunate that everything fit in our luggage. I am sure the boys thought I was crazy. But, then again, they weren't thinking that when they were digging into the Pop Tarts before school on Monday.

As for the boys, their days of vacation were spent hanging out with their Gramps, fishing, watching sports, or playing video games with their cousins. We enjoyed the warm weather, the beautiful sunsets, and the family of deer that regularly wandered into the backyard right around dusk. It really was exactly what we needed for a winter break. Even though the trip was short, I did manage to have lunch with both of my brothers (I met up with my other brother on the layover back to Lux) and we were able to prepare my in-laws for their upcoming visit to Luxembourg in April. We even made a day trip into San Antonio to have lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe (my sons have an obsession with visiting them everywhere we go and collecting the pins and t-shirts) and even managed a quick trip to the Alamo - a Texas landmark I hadn't seen myself since the 7th grade.  

I will really miss seeing the bluebonnets this spring, but I do look forward to discovering what Lux has to offer. So far, it seems snow is still a possibility, but the temperatures are rising and the days are finally getting longer. We did miss Buergbrennen (the bonfire that is lit the first Sunday of Lent - a celebration signifying the end of winter), as it was the evening we returned to Lux.  However, it does seem that we can finally start saying our goodbyes to winter. There are times I still look around and can't believe we are actually in Europe - the quiet villages, the medieval ruins, the quaint architecture. Then, there are times when I am driving around the countryside and can honestly say that it reminds me a bit of Texas (the vast expanse of farmland) or Virginia (the rolling, wooded hills). Either way, I know in time Luxembourg will feel like home as well. I have even seen a few sunsets that could perhaps rival those in Texas. Well... maybe :)

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