Eleven years ago this morning I cleaned out and reorganized my car yet again. When you’re basically living out of your car (well, not living, but I definitely spent a lot of time in it every day) for a couple of months straight, this process becomes absolutely necessary on a regular basis.
Then I headed west on the Interstate into Louisiana. “There wasn’t much traffic, and I knew there wasn’t much of anything to see off of it, anyhow. About an hour and a half later, I took the exit for backroads leading into Bastrop, Louisiana, from the east (the only main road into town comes in from the west). And I’d been right. Not much beyond cotton fields and trees and the occasional small town.”
Once I got there and fed myself, I went looking for my grandmother’s house, which was another of those addresses I’d inexplicably memorized at a very young age. The few times we visited Bastrop when I was a kid, we always stayed with my grandmother, and I had very good memories of her little white house with the green trim and screened-in front porch with its swing, and the enormous pecan tree out back. However, things had changed since the house was sold after she died fifteen years prior to this trip. And not in a good way. “I found [the house] after stopping once to ask directions, but I sort of wish I hadn’t. It’s awful. The neighborhood is horrible, all run down and full of trash, and the house itself was in terrible shape. Somebody’d painted it blue years ago, but the paint was all dingy and worn. The yard was full of junk, and it was a mess. Just barely recognizeable. Sad.”
After that, I went to find Uncle Cooter (short for Carl Clay — I did mention that we’re in Louisiana, right?) and Aunt Helen’s house, on Justus Road outside of town. I’d called from Baton Rouge two days prior to make sure they’d be there, and they were, along with their great-grandson who my aunt was babysitting while his mother was in nursing school.
This was a much happier experience. The last time I’d seen my Bastrop relatives (except for my late Aunt Punch and Uncle Doil, who came to my first wedding) was when I was thirteen. My uncle Cooter is my late father’s younger brother and looks so much like him that he makes me want to doubletake. And my cousin Ellen, who was the closest cousin to me in age, stopped by to say hello and visit, too. So that was really nice. Ellen had four kids, which kind of boggled my brain. And I’ve never seen anyone whose appearance changed less from age twelve to age thirty-nine than hers had.
They offered to let me spend the night, but I decided to go on that evening, and spent the night in Bastrop’s “big city,” Monroe (MUN-ro, not mun-ROE). Which was fine, except that Monroe has the worst-tasting water I’ve ever had in my entire life. It tastes like what the Dragon’s Mouth Spring in Yellowstone smells like. Apparently they’ve got more sulphur in their water than they can get rid of.
11 years ago tomorrow I drove the five hours from Bastrop to Tyler, Texas, where my mother lives. I spent five days in Tyler on this trip, and I’m going to spare you the blow-by-blow of a visit with my mother. Aside from getting some essentials taken care of, oil changes, tire checks, mailing a package or two, mostly what we did was what I always do when I visit my mother — go out to eat and sit around and talk.
So I will pick this up again on Sunday, November 7th, when I start to make my long, long way across Texas!