On The Wagon Trail

Since emigrating to south Texas, I am reminded of the path which led to Mattie and my being here. In particular, I think back to my first meeting with Mike in 2004 in Oaxaca, when Mike brought up the possibility of our one day living together; out of the blue he suggested that I (and my soon to be adopted child) might want to move to the US. I remember the feeling of shock at his words, and inwardly I felt there was no way I would want to move away from England. But as time went by, the thought became more and more appealing, and whenever Mattie and I would travel to the US on holiday, the 3 of us would undertake a road trip to work out where we would one day like to settle. These trips included New Mexico, far west Texas and the Texas Gulf coast. Finally we settled on south Texas – and all these years later, here we are!
On departing the UK in April this year, a friend, in her ‘farewell’ card, wrote that emigrating was by far the biggest step of my life. I knew immediately on reading those words that emigration would in no way be as great as adopting a child on my own. Even so, it is still a big step to take – and perhaps like adoption it is only after the event that one realizes just how big that step is! Mattie has settled in beautifully and I doubt that she has looked back once. She spent one term at elementary school here and thoroughly enjoyed it – despite the earlier starting time of 8am. She once said to me, ‘Mum, I feel I belong here.’ I ventured that, coming from a mainly white town in the UK, perhaps that was because there are so many mixed races here (mainly Hispanic but Asian, Middle East, South American and others, too); and she agreed with me, saying, ‘Here everyone is different.’ Mattie is now on summer break, about to do a fortnight at summer camp with the girl scouts. It is her Mum who has suffered occasional feelings of homesickness! It occurred to me on writing this that the last time I experienced homesickness was in the diplomatic service – over 30 years ago. I remember, during those early months in Bangkok, writing letters home about how miserably lonely I felt and then tearing them up and throwing them in the bin! And although I have felt nowhere near as homesick as in Bangkok, I can still be taken unawares – perhaps by a letter from my mum, or a shot of the English countryside on TV. My hairdresser, a young girl with a strong southern accent and tattooed arms who recently moved to Texas from South Carolina in order to marry her fiancé, out of the blue mentioned how homesick she had felt here at the start. From talking to her, I realized that her move was bigger than mine – at least my accent is adored here!
And there are so many positives to our moving here. Not least, the fact we are a family and living together, finally. And there is the weather – today it is only in the early 90s and this is the hottest time of the year; even when it is hotter, there is usually a breeze and cloud cover blowing in from the Gulf coast. The rest of the year it gets cooler and in winter it is not unknown to light a fire – nearly all the homes have fireplaces. I also love the sounds – the sound of birdsong (I have seen painted buntings, humming birds and blue jays in the garden); the mesmerizing sound of crickets echoing around the garden from late afternoon onwards; the sound of the freight train as it wends its way northwards to Oklahoma. I love the leafy boulevard-like streets, the huge live oaks that spread their long branches to give us shade, and the blossoming myrtle trees – pale and mid-pink, cyclamen and purple. And then there is the friendliness of the people. When I walked Mattie to school for the first few days I noticed how even the teenagers smiled at me – an unknown back home! And last, but not least, in this state that once belonged to Mexico and where 60% of the population of San Antonio is Hispanic, one enjoys some of the positives of living in Mexico – but happily without the poor plumbing system!

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