Friday, October 29, 2010

On being a native… Texan

Texas has a tourism slogan that goes, “Texas, It’s Like a Whole Other County.” This just isn’t a slogan, it’s the truth. Just live there, you’ll learn – I certainly did. For Texans you are a Texan first and an American second. It’s just as simple as that. This is difficult to comprehend for those of us who were not fortunate enough to be born in Texas. People in Tennessee ask me where I’m from all the time. I answer carefully. I always that say I lived in Texas for 8 years, but I’m not from there. I’m not sure how long you have to live in Texas be called at Texan, I just know it’s longer than 8 years.

I like to reminisce about my first experiences as a new resident of Texas. If I ever live there again, I may lobby for a naturalization course. Goodness knows, I certainly could have used one.

On the day we moved into our first Texas home, we attended a gathering of his new coworkers in Decatur, Texas. The moving truck had literally just driven away. We somehow find some decent clothes to wear. I make us stop by the grocery store deli to get some wine and bread on our way so I won’t show up empty handed – that would break a Southern Lady rule. Upon entering the home, I’m immediately told, “This is the party we have every year to clean the old deer meat out of your freezer to make room for your new deer meat.” Now I grew up in Arkansas, so the deer meat freezer clean out is hardly shocking to me. I don’t eat game, but that’s another story. However, I now know to avoid the chili altogether and, it’s also just become clear to me why the summer sausage I just ate tasted a bit “off.”

So I’m chatting with David’s new coworkers. This is my first time to meet them and he’s met some of them maybe one other time. So we really don’t know them. One man says to me with great pride, “Aren’t you glad you can finally tell people you’re from Texas?!?!” I smile and laugh politely, knowing he’s not serious. As I got to know him through the years I came to realize that he was COMPLETLEY serious…

Early on during my time in Texas I noticed the bumper stickers. You’ll find them on everything from a giant pickup to a sporty Lexus. They say things like, “NATIVE TEXAN,” or “American by Birth and Texan by the Grace of God,” or my personal favorite, “I Wasn’t Born in Texas, But I Got Here as Quickly As I Could.” I was continually baffled by these. I would say to anyone who would listen, “There are 49 other states in the county. People are like those places too.” But there’s just something about Texas. This was an understanding of sorts, a club, even and I wasn’t a member. At first I dismissed the stickers as something that I just didn’t get. I also don’t get the bumper stickers with the cartoon character “Calvin” peeing on Ford cars, or Chevy cars, or Democrats or Republicans or whatever….

But then these stickers and the feeling behind them started to eat at me. I was mad and even jealous in some way. I thought to myself that I’ll pretend to buy into this whole notion of “Texas is only slightly beneath heaven” so that I can mock it once I’ve infiltrated. Yes, this was a masterful plan. I’ll make believe that I don’t think all this hoopla about Texas is psychotic.

But it didn’t work out that way. Somewhere along the way, I started to buy in to this foolishness – at least partially. I can’t say when it happened exactly, but some time while living in Texas, you feel sorry for someone living in another state. I’d watch the national news about something tragic happening in another state, and tsk and shake my head and say, “That would never happen in Texas!”

The ultimate, ULTIMATE example of the Texas nationalism occurred when I had a baby. Texas, not being overly environmental, gives new moms information (pamphlets and flyers) printed on the equivalent of approximately 3 reams of paper. So I’m thumbing through some of it while in the hospital and I come upon a greeting card. Not just any greeting card. It’s an actual Hallmark card from the Governor and Mrs. Perry congratulating me on the birth of my new native Texan! And in true Texas fashion, it’s written in both English and Spanish. Only in Texas, friends… Only in Texas…

Now I find myself a soon to be mother of a “Native Tennesseean.” It just doesn’t have the same ring to it does it? I believe the Tennesseeans would even agree. More than being a “native,” this part of the world is governed by football alliances. Since this is the heart of the SEC and since we’re just an hour away from Knoxville, I’m halfway expecting to receive a greeting card at the hospital that’s musical. It’ll play Rocky Top Tennessee and welcome my son to the class to the Class of 2022! I’ll let ya know what I get.

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