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Texas Nights

There is nothing like Texas summer nights.

I remember when I was going to college in Ohio and my parents moved to Texas from Minnesota. I was thrilled to get out of the frozen tundra, even if it meant summers in a sauna. I am a sunshine girl. My parents had a pool, so I could survive the day, but what I remember most is the nights. My parents let me and my brother ride in the back of their pickup truck, where we stretched out side by side, staring up at the stars. The warm wind blew over us, as we bounced along on our way to Braum’s for ice cream.

I liked it so much in fact that when it was time to choose my home after graduation, I drove my red Jeep down to Austin and started to make a life in a land without snow. My Midwest and East Coast friends say, “How can you stand the heat? Ugh.” I explain that while we might hide in the AC for several hours a day in the summer, they hibernate indoors in the winter for months on end. A Minnesota winter can go from October to May, and I’m not kidding around. No contest.

No matter how menacing the heat might be during a Texas afternoon, once the sun goes down it’s like a sweet reprieve, a reward for those who endure. It smells humid and vaguely tropical, a hint of vacation. I like nothing better than to be able to go out to dinner in a sleeveless top or strappy sundress and sandals and not have chill bumps. For as much as I love the summer days we now spend in California, I am always wrapped up and freezing at night, missing Texas.

No one does summer heat better than the Spaniards. I know this intimately because we lived there for several years when the kids were little, and because one of my best friends from college is from Madrid, now living in Barcelona. He and his wife are my daughters’ godparents (padrinos), and we have plans to make the trek to see them this summer. In Spain, they have this summer thing down. For several hours each afternoon there is an enforced siesta, meaning everything is literally closed and people go home for late lunch and a long nap. It’s up to the discretion of the shop owners when they might re-open; this usually changes and is indicated by a taped paper with scribbled words hanging on the front door. People who work (which honestly seems like no one during the summer) supposedly go back to the office after siesta for several hours. Other people linger at home, go for a cold caña (draft beer) at a corner bar, or take a walk along the tree-lined ramblasand eat ice cream. You may as well have a drink or a snack, because dinnertime isn’t happening anytime soon. It’s perfectly normal to sit down to dinner well after ten o’clock. And dinner isn’t like grabbing a quick bite, either. It starts with cava (champagne), and meanders from course to course, often involving some kind of ham hacked off a hooved leg. Pig legs with hooves line restaurant windows like a showcase, so it’s kind of like eating in an animal morgue. This takes lots of cava to get past, let me tell you.

But the nights and the people are warm like Texas, which is probably why I always felt at home there and why I cannot wait to go back. I can’t wait to show my children, now that they’re older, that naptime is a luxury, not a punishment, that life really isn’t about rushing, and that the best connections are not made or sustained with computer screens. I plan to bring a little España back home to Texas.

No matter how many consecutive days we get above 100 degrees, no matter how much we sweat and stick to the seats of our cars, no matter how many times we scorch our hands on burning steering wheels, no matter how crowded the lake gets, no matter if we have to see every movie that comes to the theater, no matter how many margaritas it takes, no matter how long the wait is at Hula Hut or Ski Shores, no matter how close we come to passing out on a run, no matter what our AC bill may be—we always have Texas nights. And they make it all worthwhile.

Credits

Illustration by Joy Gallagher

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