We were visiting Rocky Mountain National Park recently. Near the main visitor center is a long staircase leading to a vantage point for taking pictures or just looking around. It had been closed for construction last time we were there and this time the boys wanted to walk up.
So we did, just the three of us. The rest of the family hung out at the visitor center, drinking hot chocolate and checking out the view from the massive windows.
When we got to the top, we found ourselves in a lucky lull between crowds of people. It was just a dad with his two kids and us. We each did our own thing until Daryl walked up to me, looking very concerned and uncomfortable.
“Mommy,” he said, “that man over there told his kids, ‘Hey, you should be doing better than this. You are from Colorado, not Texas!’ Why would he say that?”
My poor son looked like his feelings were hurt. Either that, or he was wondering if there was something wrong with being from Texas.
“Oh, honey, he’s probably referring to the altitude. I bet his kids were complaining about the walk.”
About then, the man, having overheard our conversation, looked over and said, “I’m sorry if you guys are from Texas. I could have picked any place: Louisiana, Oklahoma, whatever. It doesn’t mean anything.”
“Actually,” I said, “we are from Texas. Well, they are. I live there but still have trouble claiming it.”
After nearly twenty years, I’m not sure why I still say that. Part of it is because my general outlook on life and society is so different from the standard Texas one. Mostly though, it’s because I grew up in Oklahoma and Oklahomans have chips on their shoulders about Texas, that big neighbor to the south that thinks so much of itself.
As I was pondering whether I should embrace my children’s birth state more fully, the man said, “At least you have Austin!”
I laughed. Yes, at least we have Austin. I laughed because it’s not the first time I’ve heard that remark as I’ve traveled the country and because he tipped his political hand in that one brief remark. I can only assume that those of a more liberal persuasion have resisted completely writing off Texas because at least we have Austin.