So you moved to Texas from another state? Maybe your spouse was transferred here; maybe you moved here because this is where the jobs are; maybe you graduated from college and moved here to be with someone you love.
I grew up in a cornfield in the great Land of Lincoln, where we could recite the Gettysburg Address, experienced all four seasons, and had minimal knowledge of Illinois state history. But then I went and moved to Texas, married a die-hard Texan, and had Texan babies. There are things that I might never fully understand about Texas: the over-the-top state pride, homecoming mums, the fact that where you went to college could start a fight during Texas/OU weekend. I was blissfully unaware that such things mattered, until I moved here to the Great State. So, as a Midwest mom with Texan children, I now know the following:
You eat black-eyed peas for New Year’s. Is this just a Texas thing, or is it a Southern thing? I don’t know, but what I do know is that I choke them down every New Year’s in an effort to please/impress my husband and in-laws, and because I don’t want to be known as “the Yankee who can’t handle black-eyed peas.”
Have an opinion or get out. You either love them or you hate them—there is no in between. Our oldest made the decision at age three: our family loves them and there is no turning back. Yes, I am a bandwagon fan.
Where you went to college is a BIG DEAL in Texas. It informs people’s opinions of you, your personality, your abilities, and your life choices, just by the college you chose/were mandated by your family to attend! Every state school has a song, chant, AND hand gesture, the rivalries are intense, and people dress up their infant babies in alma-mater gear with absolutely no irony. I have witnessed many fights on TX/OU weekend, and I didn’t get to Dallas until I was 22!
By far the weirdest tradition I’ve seen are the homecoming mums, especially since Texans literally cannot believe that mums are not used elsewhere as a status symbol during homecoming week. Outright shock and disdain were what I was met with when I innocently asked, “Why are those weird flower/pageant ribbon things being sold at grocery stores?” the first fall I moved to Texas. Apparently boys give mums to girls when they ask them to the homecoming dance, and the bigger the better. Need proof? Of course you do, there is no way to properly explain this phenomenon without visual evidence.
Years of state history are taught to Texas schoolchildren. There is a Texas Pledge of Allegiance (that my children proudly shout and I fumble through at school events), there are Texas-specific songs they are taught, and then there are the Texas history classes, where they learn that Texas was once an independent country and, at any point in time, could SECEDE THE UNION.
BIGGER IS BETTER
Everything is bigger here: the malls, the cars, the restaurants, the restaurant menus, the interstates, the schools, the football stadiums. A friend visiting my husband years ago said that as he drove into Dallas, he saw a professional football stadium right off of Interstate 35. My husband frowned and then said, “Oh, that’s a high school field—I actually played there my senior year!”
COLD WEATHER PARANOIA
The winter of 2003 was my first winter here—we had an ice storm that lasted three days, and I kid you not, the city shut down. I remember calling my mom and whispering, “Mom…I don’t have to go to work because it iced overnight!! The entire city has closed. I don’t know what is going on but it’s awesome.” Even the hint of snow flurries has everyone on high alert. I have been sent home early from work due to the THREAT OF TEMPERATURES DROPPING BELOW FREEZING. I. Love. It. School closes early or shuts down if it snows, which would be a hassle for working parents, except that all the businesses shut down, too!
I have become a Tex-Mex snob and I am proud of it. Chips and salsa should be free. So should a little bowl of bean soup, right? I remember once, on a fourth grade field trip (to the Lincoln sites, where else?), we went to Chi Chi’s, the only Mexican restaurant in Springfield, and someone next to me threw up right there at the table. It was then that I knew that authentic Mexican food would not be found in central Illinois. My children will never know that truth—they are lucky little ingrates who are never more than five miles away from amazing Tex Mex.
But lest you think I hate Texas, I do not. I love the state pride. I love how so many Texans graduate college elsewhere and then come back to their hometown. I love the bluebonnets in the spring. I love how friendly the locals are—I truly have never met more solid, kind people than those who are born-and-bred Texans. I love that I can be outdoors 75% of the year in shorts. I love how much sunshine we get. I love that the job market is amazing. I love the arts and culture, the family-friendly activities, the amazing churches, the state-of-the-art sports facilities, and the opportunities my kids have that I never had growing up in the middle of a cornfield. As the bumper sticker says, “I wasn’t born a Texan, but I got here as fast as I could.” AMEN. As my uncle would say, “Welcome to God’s country.”