On Labor Day in 2000, I was eagerly awaiting my first day of classes at the Pacific Northwest Ballet School. I was 17 years old, but I felt much older (and I still do). My family and I had arrived a couple days earlier in a red, Saturn station wagon that was totaled within the year. I remember stress over a cell phone charger forgotten in Boise. I remember photo ops. I especially remember my first Sunday at Green Lake Presbyterian Church. Mom, Dad, and Whitney drove away from the big house on Capitol Hill, just off Aloha, on that Monday morning, but try as I might I cannot remember it. They left the car with me, so maybe it was a cab. Later that afternoon I went to a barbeque. That night I slept on a weird water bed in my big, oddly shaped attic room with scary stairs (but I wasn't scared because I wasn't scared of anything yet). I loved dancing at PNB until I got totaled too.
Seattle did feel strange to me once, foreign and mysterious, but I have to strain to remember. Mostly, I felt right at home even though outwardly I did stick out for a while. Texas leaves an imaginary sign over your head whether you want it there or not, but, truth be told, I really was proud of being from Texas. Still am. Just like I'm incredibly proud of being from Seattle now too. Roads don't seem so narrow to me anymore. The hills have appropriately shrunk as I've adjusted to the landscape. I ordered raw oysters on purpose the other day. I can tell a Doug Fir from a Hemlock from a Cedar from a Yew. My kids know how to tell the sex of a crab and which jellyfish are ok (kinda) to touch. I don't own an umbrella (but, TBH, that's mostly because the kids broke my last one).
Now, I go "home" to Texas and scoff over the size of everything. "Small? I'm not sure you know what that word means..." I can't believe how far you can see. I can sit and watch clouds form and change, watch the barn swallows, watch the cowbirds clack, watch the toads come out for hours and be so very happy. When I'm there, I feel all the toasty, colorful delight of days and evenings in the canyon, and I cannot believe I don't get to go down there whenever I want. I also cannot wait to come home to Seattle.
The last time I was there, I felt all this tension more tightly than ever. But, somehow, it's that tension that holds me together and has been used to make me who I am. My parents, clearly, are a huge part of Texas for me, and on that trip, I was most keenly aware of my similarities to my dad. On the plane from Amarillo to Dallas, I wrote a song about it all. Yep. A song. And it wasn't even just a jokey thing for my kids. I didn't know it was a song necessarily. I just started journaling my thoughts, and they came out rhyme-y enough to make it a poem. The tune started as a breeze, but by the time I got off the plane, it was rattling the shutters enough that I awkwardly hummed into my iPhone as I walked to my next gate. Enter: Ukulele.
I'm not a musician; the technician in me just has to acknowledge that, but the performance artist has to show and share.
WHEN IN ROME
My dreams kept on growing 'til I couldn't stay.
A seed on the wind, I twirled far away.
Planted and rooted, you only could watch,
looking back up across all those big city blocks
at all of the places that held me inside.
Oh, that season is over,
but nobody died.
They say when in Rome do as the Romans do,
so when I come home, I act just like you.
How can my heart belong so far away?
I am the same girl, but it's not the same day.
Now that I'm half and half, I feel torn in two
cuz my heart's not here, but I still love you.
You point out dahlias or hyacinths.
You know every herb; you name every scent.
I see every hawk on every long drive.
I share your loves because you shared your life.
And I see that need to apologize,
but it's ok. Now, I have a parent's eyes.
I have my own birdies I'm teaching to fly.
Mistakes get made, but we all get refined.