My family has been in Victoria, Texas, since the 1840s. (The gazebo above in downtown DeLeon Plaza on La Calle de los Diez Amigos commemorates the founding of the town by Don Martin DeLeon in 1824.) This is a history of which my Mother is understandably proud, and about which I could care less. I have never been a person who is about the past, much less someone who is impressed with the whole “decaying Southern gentry” notion of fine old family lineage. I know my family history, and I appreciate it for the understanding of the social and cultural influences it has contributed to shaping who I am, but as they used to say years ago in New York City, “that and 25 cents [it is $2.75 today] gets you on the subway.”
I knew from the time I was in high school that I would not continue the tradition of a lifetime residence in my hometown. I was a reader and a writer and had already figured out that there was a whole new, big world out there for me to experience and understand. Big fish in little ponds, so typical in smaller cities and towns, never held any allure for me. I always wanted out, wanted more, wanted a bigger venue, wanted anonymity.
I went off to college — not far , only to San Antonio — but then I really went off from there. Interestingly, I migrated to the Northeastern United States, to the land of my father, whose lineage is actually even older (by about 100 years) than the South Texas heritage my Mother’s family always venerated. But still, “that and ____ gets you on the subway.” In the end, who cares? In America, at least up until recently, you are judged by what you do, not by where you come from.
It seems to me that most people stay, or get stuck, where they happen to be born. Repeated studies of population migration over the years tend to confirm that those who are raised in rural areas are less likely to leave, and those who have been in a place for generations are even less than likely. Leaving, changing, and moving takes courage, and most people don’t have the guts or the gumption. They stay where they have been planted and they claim that they “love it.” Well, of course, they like to think so, but how can you know that you “love it” if you have never known anything else?
My Mother did, in fact, live for a time as a newlywed in Trenton, New Jersey, where my father was from, but she didn’t love it — not even close. She was always drawn back to her family and her roots in Victoria. So she and my father eventually moved back to Texas after the War. His untimely death just a few years later caused her understandably, then a young widow with a daughter to raise, to stay on and stay put forever more.
It occurs to me, now that I’ve been in the throes of intensive crisis management for three months, that recovery from disaster, both natural and personal, often results in relocation. People lose their homes and have neither the resources nor the resolve to rebuild, so they move. (California wildfires.) Local economies collapse under the devastation, people can’t find work, and so they migrate elsewhere. (Katrina.) A sudden healthcare crisis, a stroke or cancer, renders a person unable to resume the life as lived before, and so forces an adaptation to a different lifestyle, maybe even relocation to a different life situation altogether. It happens everyday.
And so this is how my Mother finds herself, after 94 years in her beloved Victoria, Texas, relocating to San Antonio. Through the combination of Providence and luck and sheer determination, I’ve managed to sell her house, clear out her belongings, and secure her a place in a lovely assisted living facility right around the corner from me. It will be a fresh start for her and good for both of us, I think. Now I won’t have to make that horrendous drive back and forth through oil fracking country all the time; now we’ll be able to enjoy our time together without having to run errands, sit in doctors’ offices, do grocery shopping, and perform other routine chores. Now we will be able to really visit and enjoy each other and she will be able to see more of us and her grandson. We probably should have made this move a long time ago, but as is so often the case, only crisis forces change that is difficult.
So I, too, will be making my last trip out of Victoria this week when we move my Mother up here. I have one dear friend from my childhood left there, whom I will see up our way since she has bought a condo on Canyon Lake and is thinking about retiring there. As I keep telling my Mother, “It was a good run,” for all of us. But it’s enough.
Savor the memories, be glad to survive, and move on.