Inspired By Houston

I am a chronic dreamer. For the past several years I have pined away about where I live. Each time I visit a new and scenic locale, I want to move. This sickness took hold of me and has ruled my life. Seeds of dissatisfaction were sown and all I could think about was what I didn’t have. Then, just as I worked to adjust my attitude, we would go someplace new and the cycle begins again.

Two weeks ago we were in Arkansas looking at property for just such a move. Several days into it I tapped my husband on the shoulder in the middle of the night and said, “Would you be mad if I said I wanted to stay at 2434?” Bleary eyed and confused, he said no and went back to sleep.

We spent days in beautiful locations and could envision this new life; however, in the stillness of the night, that small, still voice reminded of what I have rather than what I am missing.

Houston

Ask most people outside of Houston to give you a one word description of the fourth largest city in the United States and you will likely get answers such as, hot, humid, traffic, crowded, crime, more traffic, but then at the bottom of the list might be food, friendly people, and even more traffic. As of November 1, 2022 I have called the metro Houston area home for the past forty-three years. Despite dreams of moving somewhere with better weather and less traffic, I’m still here. Why? I’m not sure, but I am starting to get used to the idea that this is home.

June 1976

I graduated from high school on June 11, 1976 and within a week had boarded a plane bound for Houston. I was to spend the summer with my best friend in a suburb of Houston called Friendswood.

She and I had both lived in Harlingen, a town in the deep south Texas region known as The Lower Rio Grande Valley. After our sophmore year of high school, my parents decided to move back to California and her dad accepted a transfer to Houston. That last night before we left, she and I drove around in her car, cruising through Sonic among other hang out spots; we drove past homes of boys we thought were cute, all while listening to the radio, laughing, and finally and crying as we said goodbye.

We spent two years writing letters with only an occasional phone call to bridge the gap. This, after all, was in the days before computers, cell phones or the internet. Long distance phone calls were expensive leaving us to pour out our lives out to one another in letters that were several pages long. It was a different time…in many ways a sweeter time. I miss hand written letters.

I left California on a Continental jet from Los Angeles International Airport – LAX for short, and landed some three hours later at Houston Intercontinental Airport, now known as Bush Intercontinental. I looked out the window during takeoff and all I saw was buildings, concrete, freeways and cars. To me, this was a normal sight. Most of the lush greenery, orange groves, and other forms of natural beauty had long since succumbed to development. What I saw on approach to Houston was green. Green as far as the eye could see. I was absolutely enchanted. At that time the land around the airport in Houston was undeveloped heavily treed land. I thought I had landed in a magical forest.

When Kay and two of her friends greeted me at the gate, the first thing I gushed was “This place is so green!” She and her friends laughed, but I didn’t care; I was on my first grown up adventure and like Mary Tyler Moore, nothing was going to stop me now!

The rest of the details of the summer are inconsequential to my story about Houston. When I returned home in August, I had a Reader’s Digest article about Houston becoming the largest city in the country by the year 2000. It cited the oil industry, space program, the medical center among other economic factors as the reason for their prediction. I can still see my family walking through the long tiled hallway from the gate to the exit telling my them they were “lucky I came home” and that I was going live in Houston one day. Ahhh, the arrogance and attitude of eighteen year olds who have just tasted a bit of freedom. Never once did it dawn on me to be happy to see my family.

Three Years and Three Months Later

On November 1, 1979, my ex-husband and I left Brownsville, Texas and pulled into an apartment in a part of Houston known as Champions Village. An elite master planned community in far north Houston, we were surrounded by trees. I had arrived back to the Houston I had fallen in love with.

In the years since then I have lived in nearly every corner of the city. I am not sure whether Houston rubbed off on me or I was divinely inspired to live in this city because we are very similar.

Despite the bad publicity, Houston is a friendly and welcoming city. It is the most racially and ethnically diverse city in the country. Cost of living, an abundance of housing and job opportunities make this a very good city to live in. Houston’s identity is closely intertwined the identities of people from other cultures. We have always been a place where everyone can maintain their cultural heritage while being members of a larger group of Texan/Americans. We are a blue collar town. Folks work hard and they play hard. We may not be as sophisticated as that other big city to the north, but we will feed you, care for you and extend the hand of friendship. There is a sophisticated side to Houston as well. From theater to symphony and opera, museums, many colleges and universities, art galleries, and it has become known among foodies as must visit town.

I want to think that Houston has brought out the best in me. Living here has helped me see the plight of others in a way I never did in California. I learned tolerance and became curious about things that seemed foreign to me. I matured here. I came as a twenty-one year old naive young woman in an unhappy marriage. Living here brought people and experiences into my life which allowed me to grow and become someone who could stand up for herself; I found strength and determination where there was none. When the time was right, I remarried and built a life with a man who loves me despite the grimy, messy parts. My daughter, son-in-law, grandchildren are all here. I have a life here that matters. I’m friendly, creative, kind, and like to think I make room for everyone…just like Houston.

So, despite the traffic and the hot humid weather we endure six months out of the year, I am inspired by Houston. Houston is home.

Peace & Love,

Sheryl

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