In true Austin, Texas fashion, the front door of my house is painted a fading red. Made of hearty old stones, the house has two dormer windows, faces the east, and sits on what is essentially one giant, overgrown vegetable garden. To the left of the red door is a message engraved in the crumbling rock: Crestview, 1949. My family bought the house without knowing the origins of the sign, and for a while, “Crestview” was the only title I would use to address my home.
Cold, pretentious, and annoyingly proper, “Crestview” seemed like the perfect title for the strange new place I had been forced to move to. “Crestview,” I told myself, was perfect for this place which I was absolutely sure I would hate. It was perfect for this weird foreign house in this weird foreign city in this weird foreign state.
But… my insistence that I didn’t like “Crestview” didn’t last very long. One month in, I gave up the I-hate-Texas charade, gave up the title “Crestview,” and realized something monumental: my new home was neither cold, nor pretentious, nor proper. In fact, it was the exact opposite of its pompous title.
But even with this revelation already in the books, it took me approximately nine years to definitively realize that Texas is my home. This month I celebrated my tenth anniversary of living in Texas, but it was really only my one year anniversary as a true Texan.
I remember the exact moment I realized that Texas was my home, too. I had just gotten my license and I was driving back home from a late night 24 Diner milkshake run across the Lamar bridge with my friend Erin–incidentally the first friend I made in the state of Texas. I had denied my Texan-hood for so long, insisting that I was actually a northeasterner just like the rest of my family. But, as I drove through the muggy night air with my windows down, the fact that this place was my home suddenly washed over me. I can’t quite explain it, but I instantaneously felt a new emotion–comfort.
And now, just shy of four months from graduation, it seems my gratitude for my Texas home has kicked into overdrive. It’s probably because of the strange transitional state that is life as a senior–I’m excited to move onto something big, but simultaneously slammed over the head with a heightened awareness of what I’ll be leaving behind in the fall.
Level by level, my affection for my home has grown these past few months, coming to a climax on my Texas ten year anniversary. It began small with increased appreciation for my physical house (formerly known as Crestview). Constantly filled with people, butter, flowers, and dogs, it has a giant porch (for all the guests that arrive at all hours of the day to sit around and chat), usually smells like something garlicky or something bacon-y, and is smothered with old pictures–both real family photos and photos of strangers purchased at thrift stores. It has a mezuzah on the front door that my mom conveniently labeled “Jews!” using her brand new Dymo label maker and the house is positively overgrown with honeysuckle and rose vines, mulberry trees, books, and neighbors.
As my love for Casa Dexheimer grew, I gradually began accepting my immense love for Austin, Texas. Through my eyes, Austin is a town of taco tours, and great adventures looping miles through the Greenbelt, in and out of water, over bridges and boardwalks. It is late night improv comedy in a small theater that smells like espresso, the countdown to the Central Market Hatch Chile Festival, pitchers of horchata, A-line dresses and cowboy boots, an old man strumming a guitar on the shores of Barton Springs.
Most people here play instruments, and most events happen outside and involve lots of dancing, sweating, eating, and cascarone crumbling. In winter, all of the giant Texas trees are strung with lights, and the agaves have holiday ornaments stuck onto their spines. Everyone knows everyone in Austin. My track coach is up to date on my sister’s life, the convenient store clerk asks how my calculus class is going, and I see someone I know at every shift at work.
And finally, my new homey affection has recently expanded to include the great state of Texas, much to the despair of my northeastern relatives. The best part about Texas is the Texans–people who value hospitality and food (and football) above most else. Some of my favorite memories are straight-up Texas postcards: swimming across the Rio Grande mid-November, brewing pitchers of iced tea, tearing through the aisles of Buc-ee’s, watching fresh tortillas pop out of the machine at HEB, picking baskets of fruit from backyard loquat trees, touring swimming holes, waking up early to insane splashes of dark pink and orange streaked across the giant sky.
So now I’m a real Texan just in time to potentially leave Texas, depending on where I go next year. Just as I got used to it–just as I grew to love it–my time in this exact combination of Crestview and Austin, Texas is coming to a close. But what I have come to realize is that no matter where I end up, I’m the one leaving. Meanwhile, Crestview, Austin, and the great state of Texas, right in accordance with their characters, will be waiting for me, loyal and patient as ever. And just as I’m certain that I’m leaving for now, I’m certain that someday I’ll be back.