Tuesday, November 18, 2008

4. Leaving Lubbock

I have just returned from helping my mother and dad sort thru their belongings in anticipation of a move to a retirement community. I am weary of this chore…this is probably the third or fourth time I’ve gone to help them clean out their house of forty years. But this time it looks like they will really move; the plans are made for a moving truck and my sister has found them a nice place to live in the Dallas area, near her family.

Most likely this was my last trip to Lubbock until someone dies, and it was a bittersweet time for me. The house there has been an important part of my life since I was 13 and my mind is full of memories of all that has taken place there. One of the best of those memories is the smell of turkey roasting in the oven with a big Christmas tree overflowing with packages. When I think of that house the first thing that comes to mind is a crowded dining room table with a card table extension, and the generations coming and going: my grandparents, parents (my mother constantly running back and forth to the kitchen, never really having a chance to sit down), Aunt Dot, my siblings, their spouses and children, my husbands, and Emily. I wear a beautiful diamond band that was my grandmother’s 50th wedding anniversary gift: my grandfather gave it to her at that table during a special celebration.

I have “come home” to Lubbock under so many varying circumstances, and that house was always there, my base. My first husband and I would excitedly return there from Baylor, and before many years passed I was coming back alone. I remember some very difficult nights in my room then, unable to tell anyone what I was going thru. And then I brought Bill there and before long a new, precious baby. Even when our finances were extremely tight during our first years in Maine I managed to scrimp and save so that Emily and I could always go back at least once a year. And then there was the year I made that trip 5 times, due to my parents’ illness and my brother’s death.

To live in the same place for 40 years is in some way a great gift. To have a Christmas party with the same friends for decades, watching them age and struggle, watching their children grow up. To see your community change, and yourself with it. To know your plumber and appliance repairman on a first-name basis. To attend the same church for years, watching pastors come and go, witnessing babies baptized and friends buried. These things have not been a part of my experience. I have been so restless in my adult life, moving every few years to a new job and location. But knowing that the family home was waiting for me has been, in hindsight, a comfort.

On this trip I went to all the places that have become routine for me on my visits “home”: El Chico restaurant, Tom and Bingo’s barbeque, Mrs. Camp’s bakery, the sprawling South Plains Mall, and Barnes and Noble (in my mind, the intellectual bastion of the area). I walked every morning thru my familiar neighborhood, looking at all those ranch houses and their perfectly manicured yards for the umpteenth time, and drove thru the Tech Terrace area, where I would want to live should I be in Lubbock. I marveled once again at the vast campus of Texas Tech University and its beautiful southwest-inspired architecture. And this time I appreciated and enjoyed the big sky, refusing to let it pin me down, subdue me.

For the first time in years I visited the cemetery where both sets of grandparents and two great grandmothers are buried. These were all Lubbock pioneers in its formative years.

My mother broke down as I was leaving, grasping at any straw to stay in the house. “But we have been so selfish! What about you and Amy? You won’t be able to come back here anymore!” I told her that she and daddy were giving us a gift by not dying in the house and leaving it for us to clean out afterwards. I remained stoic as I got in the car, but as I pulled out of the driveway huge sobs rose from deep within and enveloped my entire body.

Goodbye, Lubbock.

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