So after 7 years in Austin, 5 years each in San Antonio and College Station -- what has been happening weather-wise over the last three days in Skokie has been very strange indeed. This on top of everything else that is foreign about this part of Chicagoland: the inescapable Russian and Arabic, fresh pitas and hummus, the absence of the laid-back hippie-yuppie vibe we grew so accustomed to (and loved) in central Austin, the politicians that brand their name everywhere (middle initial included) and do not talk like politicians in the South and could never get elected down there, the number of forms of identification required to register your kids for school, the puzzled looks you get when you ask about "breakfast tacos" or migas. Yes, today, with temperatures reaching 50 for the first time since we arrived in January, folks came out of the houses for the first time. Up until now it has mostly been "Shabbat walkers" along the sidewalks, or walking shoulder to shoulder across the middle of the street, en route to the synagogues on Main and Dempster on Saturday afternoons.
Despite all of this that is not Texas, there is definitely something refreshingly real about not living in one of the hippest, most sought-after, nationally ranked as a "best places" to live places that prides it self on its creativity and music and film and uniqueness, where everyone tell you "I hear that is great" (or shares their experiences on Sixth Street) when you tell you where you are from. That is definitely not Skokie. But driving along McCormick today, listening to Lucinda's new album for the first time (and I will listen to it again on the commute up the Edens tomorrow), I couldn't help but feel a little homesick.
After leaving Aggieland in 1994, we got to Austin as fast as we could. For so many years we would make the drive up I-35 on weekends through Schertz-Cibolo, New Braunfels, and then San Marcos (past the tacky outlets), then Onion Creek and finally down the hill where the traffic pools before downtown and the I-35 bridge across Town Lake. We finally made it around the pre-millenium Halloween, moving into what would be the first of two "fixer-uppers" within a mile of each other in 78757 (both which we managed to "flip" quite nicely). We passed our last painful childless Thanksgiving sitting on swings in Pease Park. As usual, it was muggy, and as usual, and the paper sacks were out on the picnic tables along Shoal Creek. And on the Millenium Eve we made it downtown trying to Lyle Lovett in front of the capitol building before it got too crowded to the point of compression, only to return home for the global letdown that was Y2K.
But from that year on, we marked Spring in Austin by the third week of Feburary. It officially began when the old Elms (and new Hackberrys that grew too close the green house (as Nikolas would call it) on Brentwood bloomed. For after a week and a half in Russia we returned not only with our new son but to Spring in Texas.