A World Away
Recently, I took a trip with my husband out to west Texas. My husband is from San Angelo, which is a “big city” in that part of the state, but we found ourselves farther west than even that. Seven hours west of Houston, three hours west of Austin, is the tiny town of Rowena, Texas. A town with two halls--two gathering places for any kind of celebration or meeting the little town might have, which was confusing to me. Surely, there was no reason for two halls? Not in a town this size?
The town itself was only dotted with a few houses, a couple stores here and there, and with a good arm you could probably throw a baseball down the entire main street of the place. But, it was a gathering point for all of the ranchers, farmers and others living in that area. A place to come together for a wedding, a birthday party, a graduation, a dance. A place to hold town council meetings. Rowena is small and seemingly remote, but a gathering spot nonetheless.
For me, a Flint, Michigan native and proud daughter of blue collar manufacturing, this might as well have been a different planet. I’ve traveled to countries all over the world, rural communities, big cities, suburbs and Medieval walled villages, but I can truly say I have never felt more alien than in that quiet part of western Texas.
This is where my husband comes from. And when I looked at it through a lens of my own experience, it seemed as though it couldn’t be more different than my own. Not worse, or better, just so completely out of the scope of my own experience that I felt disconnected from it. In short, no matter the negativity that surrounds Flint at the present moment, I know I would never trade in the whir of my grandfather's machine shop for the sunshine and endless fields of my husband’s childhood.
After a night spent with his family at one of the halls, we drove home. The night sky in the country is unbelievably dark, and the stars are brilliantly bright. The darkness is quiet and the wind is cool, and it’s easy to pretend out there, away from street lamps and city lights, that you’re the only people on earth. There’s a romance to that, certainly, but also a loneliness.
As much as I’ve traveled, and as far as I’ve roamed, it took that starry-skied night in west Texas to break my heart with missing my Michigan home.