Books, Roots, and Fried Chicken

August 13, 2006

Texas FlagI can’t believe it.

I only have three boxes left to unpack.

OK, well I’ve moved everything else out to the shed to deal with later.

Tonight, I have unpacked all my books onto the bookshelf.  It was the end of a long weekend, and my kids are at my parents so I had the evening to myself.  I’ve got Willie Nelson and Sheryl Crow on the radio and I’ve found that it is really nostalgic to unpack books.  I’ve got my entire lifetime told in my book collection.

From remembering my first read of CS Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia to my fascination with Mark Twain’s Huck Finn, I was able to remember some of my early books and the people who gave them to me.  I was always fascinated with Huck and his bodacious ability to do whatever he wanted to– no matter how much he knew something bad might happen he was able to have the courage to just stand up and do it anyway.  I also related to life on the river– my grandfather owned some land with some wooded acreage that bumped up against the Colorado river- one of the main rivers in Central Texas- and I always imagined I knew what it would be like to be Huck as I explored his property.

Later, my interest grew in Lewis’ friend JRR Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings.  I must have read that series at least 15 times.  I’ve got 3 different copies of it, and I reflected on the papers I wrote on it in high school examining the potential Christian allegory (I found none) and the traditional struggle of good against evil.

On and on it went- book after book, story after story.  Yearbooks, photo albums, and memories.

It was a fitting reconnection to my roots and end to this weekend, as I’ve had a strengthening of my roots starting with a family birthday party yesterday, and a family reunion today.  I saw people at both events I must not have seen in at least 10 or 15 years- and for a 36 year old that is a long time!  It reminded me of a story of my kids that’s called “When the relatives came” that talks about how there was just family everywhere, and when they weren’t in a big group they were all paired up in 2s and 3s catching up and talking, and how fun it was.  That’s what this was like.

The reunion today was at a little house in a park in Schulenburg, Texas, and there is a creek that runs through the park.  We had fried chicken catered for lunch, and it was so good!  Of course being Central Texas there are huge oak trees everywhere, something I definitely missed in California, and when I walked out to get the kids to tell them we were leaving they had made friends with all the other cousins and were playing under a footbridge in the dry creekbed.

That’s the kind of thing I remember about growing up.  Playing somewhere out in the country, outside, in the heat sweating to death and being eaten alive by bugs but not caring, and finding some tree, or bridge, or creek to play in, and thinking it was the neatest thing that ever existed.

On the way home, we stopped at High Hill cemetery, where my mom’s parents are buried.  All of her family, in fact.  It was founded in 1855 by our German ancestors (most of my family on that side is Lutheran, in case you were wondering).  The things I remembered most about going there as a kid I was able to show my kids:  the hand pump that would bring up fresh, icy cold water from the ground still worked; the grave that was so old the tree had grown all around it and almost covered it was still there; the graves written in German were still… well, in German.  And of course, now my grandparents are buried there.

We drove back through La Grange, Texas, where my grandparents lived.  You may have only heard of it because of its famous… Chicken Ranch, as portrayed in “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” starring Dolly Parton 15 or 20 years ago.  The Chicken Ranch isn’t there any more, but my memories are.  We got to see the land where I used to think of Huck Finn, and drive over the very river I used to think of as the Mississippi.

AND – to top it all off, we all got to go swimming at “Oma and Opa”s house when we got home (Oma and Opa are German for grandma and grandpa and that’s what my kids call my parents).

My roots are coming back.  They never really left, I suppose.  But its been dry in Texas, and I suppose every now and then you need a little water to make those roots perk up and function properly.  I got plenty of water on my roots this weekend, and after being so far away in California all these years it is nice to be home.

Now I have been around enough to know that while family and roots is a wonderful and restorative thing for me, it isn’t for everyone.  What rejuvinates me may bring back painful and scarring memories for others.  I’ve counseled others for whom childhood is painful and troubling.  I’ve heard from those who don’t want to bring children into the world because of what they had to endure.  It’s a great example again of how there is no “one size fits all” solution on this great planet of ours.

But for me, family is a wonderful thing.  I love my family, and I want my kids to have exactly the kind of experience I had growing up.  I think they got to have that this weekend.  I thank God that they did, and that I’m back home in Texas where our roots don’t have to reach quite so far anymore to get to the water.

j

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