Days 11 & 12, travelogue, Clute, TX
Well. Major shift in gears occurred a few days ago.
Critters woke me up at Lebh Shomea on Monday morning at 4 am. I didn’t want to get up at 4 am, but the call to prayer having sounded, I got up anyway, said my office, packed up the last bit of my things and was out the gate at 6 am for the next part of my Texas trip. It was a bit strange leaving the hermitage for “civilization” again, but a decent Texas breakfast, with eggs, refried beans, corn tortillas and real coffee, numbed the pain of it.
I drove 4 ½ hours up the coastline to Clute, my hometown, to stay with my aunt, Susan, and possibly to visit with a few folk I knew. First stop, however, was to the cemetery where my Dad, my sister Marcia, and my mother’s parents are buried. I had brought a stole with me to sing a memorial service for them all, but I had hit upon a better thing to do while I was at the hermitage. The details of the better thing I omit from this blogpost, as it was a personal, family matter, and y’all don’t need to know about such things.
My aunt is doing well, and both of us being chatterboxes, I made up in a couple of days all the talking I had missed over a week at the hermitage.
Later in the afternoon, I decided to drive around my home town, which had about 600 people in it when I was a child there (some 35-50 years ago), but now boasts a population of 10,424. Things have changed, but I found people were still the same.
I drove to my childhood home and found the place is well maintained, and, feeling an unaccustomed brazenness, knocked on the door. An older man answered, I told him who I was, and he, being tickled to meet me, actually invited me inside. I met his wife and got to stand in the kitchen & dining room, where I found the tile on the kitchen counters brought back memories, for it had not been changed (yet, for what was fashionable in 1959 just doesn’t work in the new millennium), though the couple were in the process of sanding down the hardwood floors on which I, as a child, slid around in my socks. The couple had been in the house for some 15 years and were glad to hear some of the early history of it. We discussed the demise of the big pecan tree in the front yard, the loss of a couple of hackberry trees in the backyard, and other ravages of time. They also knew what had happened to most of the neighbors, and I got caught up on several decades worth of news.
One notable bit of information was that the neighborhood bully, R.S., who had made my childhood miserable (along with the childhoods of every other kid on my street) had, in the fullness of time, come to Jesus, settled down, married a fine woman, and was now on his eighth term as city judge. If that isn’t proof there is a God, I don’t what more you want.
The next day, having woken up at my usual hour before dawn, I sneaked out of the house (unsuccessfully) and went down to The Kolache Kitchen, where my great-uncle Billy Ed is accustomed to hang out with his cronies. Alas, he was not in, but I had a fine apricot kolache, though the coffee was bad. Feeling an unaccustomed brazenness, I sat down among the worthy elders who preside over The Kolache Kitchen from 5:30-7:30 am every weekday and joined their august assembly for several minutes of conversation.
In the late morning, I drove down to the Gulf coast (some 14 miles away), past the huge, sprawling complex of pipes, refracting towers, storage tanks, and other monuments of modern industrial alchemy that is Dow Chemical Co., to Surfside Beach. Though I am no fan of wet sand between my toes or the corrosive effects of salt water on everything, I do like the beach. I walked way out on the jetty, where all the fishermen were having a bad day fishing (ain’t it wonderful!) and again, feeling that unaccustomed brazenness, I sat down beside a couple of them to see how life, and the fishing, was. I had some very fine conversations, mostly about nothing much, which is as it should be while talking to strangers on the jetty.
In the early afternoon, my aunt took me to visit my great-uncle Billy Ed and his wife Alice Sue, who are the last of their generation in my family, and, alas, their age is showing badly. But then, I haven’t been in Clute in 13 years, and people do age a little in that amount of time.
I do like the Southern practice of calling people by both their names, but you have to must have the right kind of name for it to work (e.g., Essa Nell, Willie Pearl, Bobby Jack, Billy Joe). Proper Texas names are good to hear, too, like Austin and Travis for men. I think there are too many Brittanys and Chelseas in the world; a few more Rebel Anns, with an attitude to match the name, would be an improvement. But that is by the way.
In the late afternoon, I went to visit one of my Dad’s best friends, R.R., my Mom’s best friend, his wife J.R., who, of course, knew me when I was in diapers. Not only did I want to see them for myself and catch up, but I wanted to hear from them some recollections of my Dad, for which I had never asked before. I learned a few things I didn’t know, for which I am deeply grateful. R.R. had a meeting to attend, so J.R. took me back down to Surfside, to a fine hangout right on the beach, and we sat on the patio and watched the waves over ½ pound burgers, onion rings, and cold beer. I spent 5 hours talking with them. A very satisfying time.
So much for the trip to the bustling metropolis of Clute, TX, my home town.