Today is Texas Independence Day – a holiday I have quite honestly never really cared about. I think it’s a good time for some reflection on how things have changed since I moved to Philadelphia about eight months ago, and how they have stayed the same.
A fellow Texas expatriate (I refer to myself as an expat, because as John Steinbeck once said, “Texas is a nation in every sense of the word.”) told me a while ago that ever since she moved here, she has become the “Texas Girl.” I think I can relate to that to some degree. I lived in Texas until I was twenty two. For a little over two decades, I lived in the place where I was born but did not feel that it was a part of my identity at all. If anything, due to my strongly liberal political persuasion and lack of a southern accent, I often tried to divorce myself from my “Texan-ness” when at all possible, and especially when visiting other places. Texas is a place people love to hate, and I think I always have too.
I suppose you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone, because once I felt the first wave of homesickness I felt a desire to associate with all things Texan. I want to wear cowboy boots and go shotgun shooting and drink Shiner beer followed by breakfast tacos to cure the inevitable hangover. Some of these things I can do, but some of them I can’t (like the breakfast tacos – really, someone should cash in on the empty market for breakfast tacos in Philadelphia). There are new things I can do. Living in a much larger city has made many things more convenient to me. Philadelphia has a whole culture that I have only partially explored. I got to experience Mummer’s Day and vegan cheesesteak (which actually exists and is not as bad as it sounds). The snow was even fun at first. Those things aren’t worse, but they aren’t better. They’re just different.
Nothing here really feels like it’s “mine” yet. When I think of “my” favorite restaurant, I think of the Chinese place in north Austin with the spicy tofu I still crave. I don’t think of the hole-in-the-wall Thai food joint near Rittenhouse Square I frequent at least twice a week. It’s not worse, but it’s not better. It’s just different.
I got a Pennsylvania driver’s license and license plates last week. It was bittersweet. I put my Texas ones up on my mantle. It’s like a little shrine to a former life. I tried to bake kolaches at home. They turned out weird. Not bad. Just different.
It’s been really cold lately. I know that when spring comes this year, the bluebonnets won’t come out. I am sure there is some kind of Pennsylvania flower, but I’m not sure what it will be. I look forward to finding out.