As the wheels of our jet plane touched down last Wednesday the 23rd. of February on our runway at the Houston Intercontinental Airport, Pretty shared the news that Texas governor Greg Abbott had sent a letter to the Department of Family and Protective Services, calling on licensed professionals and the general public to report the parents of transgender minors to state authorities if it appeared the minors were receiving gender affirming medical care which would now be considered child abuse. I tried to process that bombshell news as our plane screeched to a halt and taxied to our gate. No time really for deep thought as we disembarked and joined the hordes of passengers trying to find the baggage carousel while throngs of people pushed against us moving in the opposite direction to board flights bound for who knows where. We must have looked like ants that had lost their GPS – going back and forth, to and fro, hurry, hurry.
Pretty blamed my break up with Texas on the weather. We left temperatures in the sunny 70s in South Carolina only to be met by a ferocious cold wind as soon as we stepped outside the Houston terminal. Jesus Cristus, we were freezing. Our motel for the first two nights of our visit was on Lake Conroe near Montgomery where Pretty and I had a home for four years, and the woman who checked me in that first night punished me for my comment on her not wearing a mask while advertising Covid safety protocols on their website. She put us in a room facing the lake, but it was only accessible by carrying our luggage through a wind tunnel with gusts of hurricane force. I recognized revenge when I felt it; I was chilled to the bone. Pretty was, too. I also recognized the look she gave me when we got to our room, the look that meant why can’t you leave things alone just once, Boomer?
Texas was the place I’d been born in 1946, the place I had been educated by public schools through high school, the place I had graduated from college, the place where I had my first grown-up job at what was then a Big Eight accounting firm in downtown Houston, and finally the state I left a year later in 1968 to seek my fortune in a city that was as foreign to me as South Carolina was to South Dakota. For the next fifty plus years no matter where I roamed I always flew and/or drove home to Texas for Christmas and usually in the summer time to reconnect with family and friends; to celebrate the mystique of the spirit that defined native Texans as, well, native – to renew the bond I had with the land itself. When my mother became someone else who couldn’t remember how to play the piano and was in a memory care unit in Houston, I stayed for long periods of time in the state with Pretty’s encouragement to be with her.
This visit, however, was our first trip back since 2017. That would be five years in case anyone is counting. New knees and Covid were the main culprits in my sabbatical from the state. Yet here we were for four nights and days that would be filled with visits to family and friends who had kept in touch over the years: meeting friends at a favorite Mexican restaurant the first night we were there, taking donuts to talk to three little boys who were small when we last saw them but now had grown up and were taking classes online; calling on a cousin who will be 98 this month and still going strong, another cousin who now at 81 is the primary caregiver for her husband she has always adored, two first cousins who met us for lunch and brought pictures from the past that sparked memories, memories.
The weather was cold and gloomy every day we were there which gave the countryside a harshness I had never associated with the rolling hills that I claimed to be my country. The cattle now grazing needed hay from the ranchers to make it through the unsparing times. Pretty and I drove through my home town the second day of our visit on the way to the little cemetery where most of my family were buried. I felt sadness as I saw what was left of the town and home I loved. Nothing remained but the remnants of wooden houses in severe disrepair and falling down brick buildings. The town was no more.
Russia invaded Ukraine the second day we were in Texas. When we were in our motel rooms at night, I watched the news on tv. Pretty followed the events on Twitter during the day and kept me up to speed. Regardless of the source, everyone agreed that the not unexpected invasion of a sovereign democracy had begun. Local news in Houston typically focused on murders in the city every day until the devastating international tragedy began and replaced the stories. I was not in a good place when I announced to Pretty and cousins at lunch the next day that this was my last trip to Texas until they brought my ashes in a nicely decorated urn to the little cemetery on one of the rolling hills of Grimes County.
That was overly dramatic and untrue. Of course I will go back – hopefully not in an urn. The ACLU has filed suit against the state of Texas to protect the rights of transgender minors and their parents. Pretty managed to locate wonderfully warm coats and sweaters for us on Day Two, thank goodness. We ate our comfort Mexican food in a different place every day – even at the Houston airport when we had time for margaritas before the flight home. I loved being with friends and family, and I also loved going to watch the Gamecock women’s basketball team beat the Aggies on their home court in College Station. As a UT grad in rival territory, I was thrilled with the final score 89 – 48. We had an hour’s drive to get back to our motel room on Lake Conroe after the game, but when we walked through the wind tunnel to get to our room, I didn’t even notice the cold.
the Fabulous Huss Brothers
l. to r. Dwight (11), George (9) and Oscar (13)
Thanks to Becky for the photo!
Stay safe, stay sane, get vaccinated, boosted and please stay tuned.