What I Am Doing Living in Houston, And Why I Won’t Ever Leave
It’s 2011 and that means this is my 30th anniversary of being an honorary Texan. The signs you see here sum up my feeling: “I wasn’t born in Texas but I got here as soon as I possibly could.” I gave birth to two native Texans so I guess that counts too. I love my adopted city, and love the life I built here.
Before I got to Houston, I could never have imagined leaving Philly, the city of my birth. I loved Philly even though I didn’t love everything about it. (Crime, weather, snow, weather)
I was finishing my master’s degree at night, working during the day, and had a plum job with the Philadelphia Phillies baseball team doing promotions. Since they had won the World Series during the season of 1980, it was a great job to have – loads of special events to work at – which meant extra juggling of my time as a working student.
Despite my busy schedule, I called the winter of 1981 the winter of my discontent. I was fed up with the cold weather, and I was getting sick all the time. I had to trudge into a bad part of town all during the cold, ugly winter long, to go to classes since I intended to complete my graduate degree by the summer. There were fewer promotions in the winter months, and I was having boyfriend issues. A trip to California that spring almost lured me there because I was ready to plot my escape.
As summer drew near, I was working on my final research for my thesis paper, working for the Phillies and cursing the humidity of the summer. My boots stuck to my legs in the uniform I had to wear for the Phillies and I was too distracted from finishing school to really appreciate the summer baseball season.
My boyfriend – the same one I had all those issues with in the winter – was suddenly my fiancé, and he was job hunting. An interview in Philly gave him a promising job offer, if he was willing to work in a start-up office in Houston. He went for a visit, and loved the prospect of working in a new office. Houston seemed like a youthful town to him, and a lively, affordable place to be.
Houston seemed as far away as the Moon to me. I could only picture a dusty western, hick town and was not immediately thrilled until an exciting visit there.
The next thing I knew, I was finished my master’s, quitting my cushy jobs, and agreeing to move 1600 miles away to Houston without a single friend, family member, or a job prospect. I guess I was a young daredevil in love. I saw it as an adventure – a temporary move and a temporary situation. Before long, I figured at the time, my fiancé would be established in the Houston office, and would be able to transfer back to Philly.
Little did I know I would never look back once I hit Houston soil. I got a job with better pay right away. My first winter, which I spent part of in a bikini by my apartment complex pool, helped convince me this was a climate more suited to my need to be out of the freezing cold. I wasn’t sick once that first winter.
Everywhere I went in Houston, I found the people amazingly friendly and kind, and they embraced us newcomers with a warmth and openness I had never seen before. We made good friends who became like family members. It helped that we never had to spend a holiday or long weekend alone after making friends.
Houston seemed to have so much to offer: it was youthfully vibrant and a oil boom town when I moved here in 1981. There were great restaurants, concerts, and plenty of things to do and see.
I observed the young children here and saw polite, happy little ones who got to frolic outside for an extra long amount of months compared to Philly – with a very early Little League season too. It slowly dawned on me that I wanted to raise my own children here. I wanted my own little Texans.
Needless to say my fiancé’s temporary assignment turned permanent as we established our adult lives.
We married, built a community and careers, had the kids, and settled into Houston life. My sweet little Texan children had a bit of an adjustment whenever we went to visit relatives back in my native city. My son at around 5 years old once questioned me, “Why are people so rude there?” which I think is kind of an ironic question since Philly is nicknamed “The City of Brotherly Love.” He was only observing how people who bumped into you didn’t offer a smile and an “excuse me,” (no matter whose fault it is) like they do in Houston, but there were lots of other little signs he saw too. People there didn’t generally smile and make eye contact as they passed you in the street. They thought the accents were funny too. I had never realized either thing until I moved someplace else and my own children had to point it out to me.
This is not to say I don’t still love the city of my birth because I do. I just prefer to make my home in Houston, and now enjoy Philly as a visitor, rather than a resident. When I used to fly back to Philly for visits in the beginning, I used to tell people, “I am going home for a visit.” Before long, I was thinking I was going home on the return from Philly back to Houston.
I even imported my current husband (after a divorce) from Philly to live in Houston and he loves it here too.
I still can’t fathom that it’s my 30th anniversary of being in Houston. The time has flown by and I can actually say I have been here much longer than I was in my native city. No wonder it feels like home. And as they say, there really is no place like home.