Monday, March 23, 2015

One Year in Austin

A year ago today, we arrived in town late in the evening after driving over eight hours on the second leg of our journey here from Chicago. It was nearly 9PM, and the sun had set nearly two hours ago, making it impossible for us to see anything but the road ahead and the neon signs that we occasionally passed.

We found the apartment we would call home for the next two months and set up for the night after some takeout from the nearby Noodles and Company. We were too tired to venture further than what was right by us, and because we were there right at closing, they even offered us free cookies. Bonus!

I’m not sure who was more excited about getting out of the car - the cats or us - but we managed to spend a few more minutes exploring our new fully furnished, very neutral, very brown and beige apartment before succumbing to the fatigue that came with three days of traveling. What an anticlimactic end to six weeks of wild anticipation.

Except I was wrong, wasn’t I? It wasn’t the end; it was only the beginning.

And the thrill and majesty of this beginning didn’t hit us until we decided to go out for breakfast tacos at Torchy’s the next day, a quintessential Austin thing. We took a right on the Capital of Texas Highway, going south, and our jaws dropped at the sight of the hills that lined both sides of the highway. For two people from pancake-flat Chicago, any undulation was a big deal. When we drove here the night before, we couldn’t see any of it - we had no idea we were surrounded by such pretty scenery.

That was the first thing that struck us about Austin - just how green the city is. Between pockets of neighborhoods are large swaths of greenbelts that afford us a quick reprieve from urban life, and I find myself drawn to them despite my city-girl prissiness.

Then it was the tacos. Well, not just tacos, but food in general. This city enjoys its food, but because we have access to year-round growers, there is also plenty of Texas pride in food sourcing.

Speaking of Texas pride, there’s plenty of that going around here, naturally. It’s unnerving to a newcomer like me because what’s so damn great about a state full of guns, Republicans and the religious right? But over time I realized that this pride isn’t just reserved for those people. It’s in how the people in this state preserve nature, bottle their own spirits, build a local business (hello, HEB), grow their own...everything, cook their BBQ, treasure their place in history and pass it down to the next generation - not just the story of Texas but also the pride of belonging.



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It doesn’t get anymore Texas than bluebonnets and UT-Austin
 


For transplants looking to plant roots, there’s just something about it that works for me.

And the weather. Oh the weather. We moved here to get away from the harsh Chicago winters, so we knew to expect a more temperate climate, but what we didn’t expect was just how glorious it would be from Fall to Spring. Sure, we’d have some cold days in the winter, which was perfect for snuggling by the fire, but we’d still experience 60- to 70-degree days every couple of weeks, which was a far cry from always fucking frigid for weeks and weeks at a time for at least four straight months up north.


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Summer can be brutal, but then again, it’s also pool season so who cares?

Today we met with who we jokingly refer to as the Original Friends - the three families we got to know within the first month of our move here - to celebrate our Austiniversary. It was at a restaurant with a playground, where our kids were either playing with each other or with other kids. The grownups sat at two tables outside under a giant oak tree with one eye on the kids while we chatted about our spring break and what not.

Topics ranged from vacations to cars to SXSW to sickness to a Taylor Swift concert road trip (don’t ask) to school to work to the amazing weather. Then we said our goodbyes and made plans to meet at one of the Original Friend’s homes for a BBQ next weekend before rushing home for the bedtime - bath, books and songs - ritual.

While the girls played in the tub, I walked out to my yard and laughed at the sight of the dandelions in my yard that sprouted from this last spell of rain. I never knew they could grow that tall.

Then I turned and spotted our “Yellow Rose of Texas” by our front window and stood there in awe of it - how the plant survived the frosty winter nights and my lack of attention was beyond me. But it’s native to this region; it would naturally make it here.

 

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Unlike us. Even as the movers hauled our belongings into the truck, even as we drove 1,100 miles towards our new life, I wasn’t too confident that this would be the place for us. After all, three out of the four of us had never even been to Austin before we arrived with our worldly possessions.

But despite the brutal summer heat, the minor setbacks, the homesickness for Chicago, the lack of snow, the fact that we’re in Texas (but hey, Austin really isn’t Texas-Texas is it?), the abundance of wildlife just in our neighborhood, let alone the area, we made it.

And we didn’t just survive our first year here, we’re loving it. My girls are blooming where they’re planted, and I feel our roots growing deeper into this once foreign soil with each passing day.

 

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I would’ve stayed outside to enjoy a few more moments of my reverie had it not been for a certain three-year-old who walked out naked in search of her mother. After one last look at the expansive coral tinged Texas sky, I followed her back into the house for the rest of our Sunday evening.

 

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