Texas is My Elephant

There is an old fable about five blind men inspecting an elephant.  As they each touch different areas of the elephant (the tusk, the tail, the sides), they are convinced that the entire elephant is the same as the one area they are touching.  The moral of the fable is, of course, that you can only judge what’s right in front of you;  the whole may be an entirely different creature after all.  That, and our judgement is always colored by our own particular circumstances.

I don’t really know what Texas is like outside my little corner of it.   It’s hard to make that distinction, though, when I get going on my rants observations on living here.  So, without saying, “Texas this, Texas that,” I’ll celebrate our 2 months of living here by sharing my peeves thoughts.

I am deeply saddened by the amount of garbage that lines the streets of my town.  Any ditch you see – there’s garbage.  Any area of tall grass – there’s garbage.  Heck, come by my neighborhood on any day a circular is delivered to the mailbox, and you’ll see garbage floating everywhere.  There are TWO garbage days a week here – you’d think people could be persuaded to put their trash in a can or something.  But no – my daughter found someone’s entire lunch on my lawn a few weeks ago.  Empty drink can, food wrappers.  Like they sat down for a picnic, and left it for me to clean up.  My town has no curbside recycling, and the nearest recycling facility is not only NOT near, but is a scary, disgusting do-it-yourself deal that my husband dutifully brings our stuff to twice a month.  I’m wondering:  where is the pride in our community?  Where is the connection to our environment?  It’s dirty, and it’s wasteful.

People in my town drive like they’re the only ones on the road.  Notice I don’t say “like they OWN the road.”  People aren’t necessarily agressive – they’re just clueless.  They’re in their own universe, with very little acknowledgement of your presence there.  I cannot count the number of times a car has drifted into my lane.  They don’t need to move over, they’re just not paying attention to their own boundaries.  We honk frequently to keep people awake and aware of us.  In California they joke about the “California stop” – which is just a sort of rolling pause through a stop sign.  I guess here I’d call it the “Texas jumper” at a stop light.  I’ve never seen more people anticipate lights than here!  It makes me laugh out loud.  I want to say, “Relax, it’s ok, it’s bound to turn green any moment now.”

I wondered to my husband if Texas is really considered “the South.”  I have seen NOTHING of what you always hear of as “Southern hospitality.”  In the stores, at the park, on the roads – everyone is minding their own business.  It’s a very solitary life here.  There’s a phrase here that says, “I wasn’t born in Texas, but I got here as soon as I could.”  Oh yeah?  Why?

The schools in my town are top notch.  And they’ve just about managed to kill every ounce of enjoyment my kids ever got out of learning.  EVERYTHING here is high stakes, everything is a competition, and you better believe that academics are at the top of that list.  The only thing is that when you are telling a child in 1st grade that he’s playing for keeps with his education, it tends to put a little pressure on him, you know?  A challenge is good, an ultimatum is bad.  (I’ve been told over and over, “If your kids don’t pass the state tests…they don’t move on!  Period!  I’m sure my kids will pass, but relax, ok?!)  This competitive spirit extends to any extracurricular activity as well.  In Oregon, my girls played on a recreational softball league.  I’m not sure “recreational” is an important word in my town.  The softball league here not only charges a LOT more to participate, but the girls would need to try out for the team and would be encouraged to secure private training for pitching, batting, fielding, etc.  They just want to *play*.  We’ve been working really hard with our kids to encourage them to “hang in there” with the differences at school and band, etc.  Mostly this means offering them a lot of down-time at home and making sure we let them vent and communicate their feelings to us. 

Looks can be deceiving here.  The neighborhood we chose is full of nice, large houses.  An area like this in Oregon would be populated with families and professionals.  Not so here – probably because homes are so totally affordable.  The first week we were here, my husband’s brand new car got keyed (extensively).  At a fast food place just around the corner from us, a teenager was shot twice and lifeflighted to the hospital two weeks ago.  About a month after we moved here, I watched one of my neighbors try to sic his pit bull on the other neighbor’s chihuahua (the neighbors were having a dispute).  I don’t let my kids play alone outside, and when I go for a walk with the baby, I bring something I can swing at a person or a dog (there are plenty of dogs that run loose here).  We get hoardes of door-to-door salespeople, and they walk right across my lawn from the house next door, and I’ve even had a few of them look into my living room windows when I don’t answer the door.  I know I can’t blame Texas for this – I do recognize that it’s my specific neighborhood.  I’m just not used to feeling like I have absolutely no right to my personal space or safety.  It feels like people here are in it for themselves, they have their own agenda, I’m just another something in their way.

And so, not wanting to generalize, I generalize.  I don’t like Texas very much at all.  I think in some negative ways, the idea of the LONE star state gets into people’s psyches.  It does feel very solitary, very independent of community, of environment, of watching out and respecting the existence of your fellow man.

Having said that, we have met some wonderful people at church.  We are working to make friends.  We have tried to seek out activities in our community.  We are slowly but surely exploring the area around us, looking for beauty (HARD to find here!!!) and things of interest.  The career opportunity for my husband was a not-to-be-missed deal.  I know we’re supposed to be here.  I’ve come to a place where I’m not missing and mourning Oregon so much, and I have many happy moments.  I have learned that my family is all the home I need.  I have learned that friendships are lifelines, no matter where you live.  I know that I will be a better person for living through this experience.

But, sadly, I also believe that Texas will merely be a means to an end for me.  There are people who absolutely adore it here, and I’m sincerely glad for them.  But my end of the elephant is one I’d rather not hang on to when I get the opportunity to move on.    

  • nettalou

    Woweee! I don’t think I’d enjoy your end of the elephant either. I’m sorry there is so much pressure on the kid’s education that it has taken the joy out. Don’t they understand in the joy is where you find they will excel? I’ve also often wondered what I would do if we moved somewhere that didn’t have recycling “fairies” each week. Would I be stalwart and seek a facility out, kudos to your dear hubby. It’s hard when I visit my family in eastern washington and they throw everything away. Anyhow keep your chin up and look for that silver lining, it’s got to be somewhere there on the elephant. 🙂

    I never realized how important the recycling was to me – now I know what all that good Oregon training did to me. 🙂 Some friends who live in a different neighborhood said that they have the curbside recycling. Apparently our specific neighborhood didn’t contract with the company for the services. Just one of the many reasons we will be moving when the lease is up! sn

  • LCM

    ACK! Come move up to our neighborhood! The school is nice, there is a lot less pressure, I noticed that Katy school district was the only one that protested the national primary over their testing. The first day we were here someone invited Buttercup over to play with her girls, the next day someone brought us brownies, someone played the 12 days of Christmas on us, the neighborhood is very clean and I have been hon’d, and sweetied to death! And I actually like it. If only I could get them to stop calling me ma’am.

    I know that you’ve been enjoying your own move from Oregon to this area, and I’ve been grateful for your good experiences. In fact, we drove through that end of the metro area today – very nice! Yeah – you’re right about the Katy schools uproar, it’s been interesting to hear different opinions on that. I just think something has been traded in all their quest for excellence. I’m really glad you love your neighborhood so much. We will definitely be looking closely over the next year to find where we’d rather be. sn

  • Oh, Stacey, I’m so, so, so sorry… it’s so hard to live in a new place that does not feel like it could ever be home. (I think LCM’s neighborhood sounds wonderful.) Ive been here almost 3 years and have increasingly become convinced that this is simply a means to an end. (Lately two local bloggers have taken aim at me and have been trashing Evidently on their blogs. The criticism is not only vile, it’s personal and in December crossed over into my personal life. My fear is that they will go after my son next.) I don’t have words of comfort—other than to say I will keep you and your lovely family in my prayers.

    I appreciate your prayers – I truly believe that God listens to the righteous desires of us all, for ourselves and for those we care about. Thanks for adding your voice on our behalf. And I’m so sorry about what you’ve been going through – I’ve been reading about it on your blog and all I can do is shake my head in wonder. Why is it so hard to have compassion for others? Why do people lean towards putting such negativity out there? It seems like it ought to be so easy to be good, and yet it seems like it’s the last thing on people’s “agenda” somehow. Please know that you’ve been in my thoughts and prayers as well. sn

  • Stinks. But I think it can be useful to define where you don’t want to live as well as where you do. Trying to be positive here . . . why? I have no obligation to be positive. That just really stinks, kid. I would hate to be in a place I didn’t feel safe walking.

    You are SO right about the value of knowing what I don’t want. This has been a huge life lesson in understanding what’s really important to me, and in many respects there have been some surprising personal discoveries. I absolutely HATE that I don’t let my kids out to play here, and that when my husband’s gone I put a huge chair in front of the front door at night. It’s an education the hard way, but an education nonetheless. (thanks for the sympathy, too!) 🙂 sn

  • Naomi

    But you know I have the same shattered image of living here as you do. Means to the end. BUT I’m glad I met you. You’re the first ‘reminds me of home’ person I’ve met here. Sadly I think the life gets sucked out of everyone in our area. They slowly but surely turn into the ‘taking care of #1 or no one’ and then in defense we turn into them too. Would you like to borrow my dog? And thanks for standing on this end of the elephant with me, it won’t smell so bad after a while. Now that all the neg. has come out, what can we do to change it? I’m as desperate as ever.

  • Mom

    Stacey-girl…just wanted you to know I’ll be emailing you “off-blog” about THIS blog! Too much to say to put it all down here. xoxoxoxoxoxo 🙂