At this time next week, I'll be on my way home. It's weird writing that. After six and a half years in Austin, Texas, it's time to go back to North Carolina. I don't really have pretty words to write today. I guess that suits moving, though. Everything is semi-chaotic. Precious things go into boxes... maybe even some of the intangible things that make us who we are... so that we can get through to the next station. Maybe one day, I'll unpack those things and will feel the wave of emotion, and have better words. For now, though, I guess I'm just going to keep it kind of practical and write about the move itself.
Why are we moving?
I've heard that something like 1000 people move to Texas a day. Austin is constantly being brought up as one of the best, most vibrant cities in the US. There are good jobs here, decent schools, great parks, amazing restaurants. It is a beautiful city. I do not disagree. So why are we leaving when everyone else is coming?
Because we have Story Lamm, and I want to share her with my family. Everyone tells you how much having a baby changes everything in your life. Everyone is pretty right about that. It's complicated and difficult to raise a baby in a city where you have no family, especially when both parents work. There's no doubt that we've had a lot of support this year from our Hill Country and BSF communities, but there's really nothing like family. I want my parents to see Story grow up. I want her to know them and learn from them. I don't write much about how awesome my parents are. I should. My parents are generous, supportive and wise people. They've learned so much over the years, and they continue to learn and grow. They love Andy like he is their own flesh and blood and show him the respect he deserves. They hurt when he hurts, they are joyful when he is joyful, and they've been pretty unselfish in trusting him with their daughter- no strings, no guilt-trips. And Story is the apple of their eye. I've never seen my dad be more ga-ga over anything. And that's as it should be. There is a lot of injustice in the world. Good people often go unrewarded for the things they do. Jesus said it would be this way. He told us that as we did good in His name, we would suffer because He had suffered. I've seen that happen to my parents in different ways over the years. I've seen them do the right thing because that's what Jesus wants, and things haven't always turned out so great. It's not like they sit around and complain about that sort of thing. They just keep on serving others and worshiping God. But, sometimes, even in this broken place, there is just reward for faithful servants. And one of the things that turns about in good families from time to time is that children desire to come back to the people who raised them. Not to re-enter the nest, because a healthy family always sends their children out from the nest at the right time, but to share their own nest with their parents. Obviously you can also be a strong family and live all over the place. I know lots of friends in that situation, as well. But, sometimes it works out that you can spend some precious years closer together. And what better reward is there for faithful, loving, unselfish parents than to have their children choose to live nearby? So that's what this is really all about. Nest-sharing. Story- sharing. Not that I haven't flooded them with pictures and videos all year, but a Granddaddy should be able to hold his baby girl's baby girl. And we're moving to make that more possible.
When are we moving?
My parents fly into Austin on Friday, and will be driving home with me and Story starting next Sunday, August 7th. I start my new job at Cape Fear High School on August 22.
Andy is staying in our house in Austin for a little longer, at least through the end of September. He's got some commitments to wrap up at work, and he will be looking for a mechanical engineering job in North Carolina. Prayers for a new job in the Fayetteville or Raleigh/Durham area are so appreciated! We are trusting God to provide.
How are we feeling?
For me, I'm feeling ready. We had a massive cookout at the beginning of July and filled our house with students for the last time. Since then, I've been packing a little bit each day during Story's naps. I've also gotten together with friends for good-bye lunches or coffee, and Andy and I have been visiting some of our favorite places in Austin for the last time. Then, of course, we had to say good-bye to Gatsby.
My amazing friends who serve God in other countries have talked to me about the importance of good good-byes. Their wisdom has been a blessing to me, because I hate good-byes and would rather lunge forward than dwell on the past and present. But they were right (thanks Robin, Leslie and Laurie) Being intentional about saying good-bye has me feeling more settled into the reality of this change than I would be otherwise. But, it's also an emotionally draining process. And after weeks of watching things come to an end, I'm ready to start a new beginning.
Andy would have to speak for himself on this issue. It's a harder process for him than for me. Though there have been things that I have enjoyed in Austin, it's never been home for me. But Andy loves this place and does feel home here. Like me, he is tired of the oppressive heat and over how crowded everything is becoming. But, if he could have it any way, he'd probably just want to buy some property outside the city, build a house and a garage for his tools, and call it done. ;) Fortunately, our marriage doesn't work that way. I left home six and a half years ago for him, and now he's leaving home for me. Greater love has no one than this... We're hoping to find our home together.
What are we going to miss?
For someone who never wanted to live in Texas, there are a lot of things that I'm going to miss about this place. I'm going to attempt to list some of those things here, but I know I won't get all of them. Here we go, in no particular order.
Holly Thurman, and the BSF North women's class
our house on Dijon Drive
people with the last name Glace
spring-fed watering holes
cappuccino from Cafe Medici
afternoon playdates with Cal, Scout and Marshall
playing so much soccer
pick a trail, any trail... there are so many trails
Shiner and St. Arnold's
walks around Town Lake
the social acceptability of wearing yoga pants to anything
Teo and Amy's
margaritas with teachers
Captain Mitochondria and his band of merry men
Monday morning staff meetings (did I really just say that? not so much the Mondays, or the mornings, or the meetings... but yeah, the staff... those were GREAT people to start the week with)
The Jackson Seven
Another witty quip from John
It's 5 o'clock at Jake's house
seeing the face of a graduated student appear at my science lab door
the oaks in my front yard
Milburne and Veterans Park pools
day trips to Bourne and Fredericksburg
Tim Hawks keeping it real
sour grape soda from Big Top
Friday night lights
sharing a fence with the Wolski's
Zilker Park on Sunday afternoons in February- 65 degrees and sunny
Good Friday service at the Long Center- a service that celebrates the unification of the Church, rather than separatism and denominational division
The "Drunk Debutante" Fair
City Wide Garage Sale
The Turkey Trot
Whole Earth Provision Company
Sunsets at the Oasis
What can't be listed, though, is the feel of this city. I first came to Austin to see Andy while we were engaged in September 2009, and I developed a quite unexpected crush on it during that first visit. It was somehow part big city-with shops and restaurants, art and culture- and part small town. Everyone certainly didn't know everyone, but everyone seemed to be sharing a mutual love for this plot of land in the center of Texas. And it made them smiley, and friendly and happy, like little girls giggling over a secret shared on the playground.
And Austin is sort of like a playground. I remember marveling at how thin most people are in this city- especially since there is food everywhere. But I think that's because as much as Austinites love food- they love activity as much, if not more. As you drive through the streets, scoping out colorful bungalows and new homes with the clean lines of modernity, you'll likely be accompanied by scores of cyclists, whizzing by (hopefully) in the bike lanes. When you drive over one of the bridges crossing Lady Bird Lake (Town Lake for real, though), you'll see kayakers and SUP-ers year round. All around the city there are people playing in volleyball, soccer and softball leagues- both kids and adults. And everywhere you go, even in 100 degree weather, someone is out for a run.
Still, that doesn't quite capture the essence of Austin. I'm not sure that you can put it into words. In Biology, we talk about the principle of "emergent properties." Essentially, it's the scientific actuality that the sum is greater than the individual parts. Their contributions to the shared entity are somehow transformed beyond what they are on their own. Austin has emergent properties. Austin is an eclectic, wonderfully weird amalgamation of people, education, belief, culture, language, and style. The city's motto is "Keep Austin Weird." Yes, please.
Sadly, though, I feel like the city is changing. Moving to Austin is now a national trend. Trendiness can be a good thing. It brings the best minds and ideas together, and that seems like it would be good for everyone. And, it is, in a lot of ways. But, inevitably, there is a loss of something genuine when a place becomes trendy. Andy and I went to a couple of our favorite places on South Congress last weekend, and it's hard to describe, but things just felt different than they did years ago. The city is shinier than it was when we got here. It's more crowded, and more expensive. The organic charm of a city, once composed of lovers of diversity and individuality, seems diluted by people striving to be in the right place at the right time with the right people.
Nevertheless, this city will always hold a special place in my heart. Because, though the city will change, I'll have memories of special places and precious people who made Austin the friendliest, most open city I could ever hope to live in. I'll tell a story that brings these thoughts together. The first spring that Andy and I moved to Austin, it was an El Nino year. The heavy rains made it possible to take our kayaks down a chronically dried-out creek that runs through the Barton Springs Greenbelt. It was a rush careening down the little rapids, and we were struggling a bit with our lake kayaks, which were really too big for the task at hand. At one point, we both hit a section at the wrong angle and flipped the kayaks. We managed to get out easily enough, but we were struggling to flip the kayaks right-side up. All of a sudden, people who were out enjoying a day of sun along the creek shore were splashing through the rushing water toward us. Several big guys helped Andy right the kayaks and we were soon on our way. I remember smiling and waving at the friendly faces as we moved downstream- dogs and kids splashed in the water, music was playing, people were eating chips and drinking beer. That memory will always be Austin to me. Friendly people, enjoying life, happy to put themselves into the water's roar to help out a sojourner.
So off we go. Just a few more days, a few more good-byes. Am I sad? Not really. I'm happy we were here, happy we became a family here. Happy that we took the time to put down roots in a place this sunny and friendly and fun. I'm thankful for the incredible lessons that we've learned here. And I'm never going to forget the people that God put in our lives to help us with some tough lessons He wanted us to learn. Last night, we climbed the steps of Mount Bonnell for the last time. We took in the view of the skyline, we marveled at the mansions below. And we waved good-bye to this shining, prosperous city. Austin, we wish you well. God bless you and keep you... weird. ;)
|"Graffiti" is famous in Austin. This one can be found at Joe's Coffee on South Congress.|
|Mayfield Park at the foot of Mount Bonnell, where some beautiful peacocks live.|
|Lake Austin behind us.|
|Skyline from Mount Bonnell.|