I don’t really consider myself a small town girl. I was born in Richmond, Virginia, and moved to the suburbs of Houston just two months before my 10th birthday. Although we didn’t live in the Houston city limits, we were afforded all of the big city experiences with a quick jump onto the freeway—major league sports teams, thriving theater venues, and restaurants to satisfy any taste buds. Houston is definitely that salad bowl metaphor—we have a good mix and variety of people, ethnicities, cultures, religions, lifestyles, music, and more.
After graduating from college, I moved into an apartment in the city proper, leaving the suburbs far behind. When I found out that some of my friends from high school married and settled in new developments in Cypress, the suburban area in which I grew up, I made disdainful comments about how they should really move away and expand their horizons. I was pretty sure that their fate would not become my own, that my husband and I would move far away and stake our claim in a new life in a new land. We got as far as Austin and then San Antonio when the proverbial poop hit the fan. With two kids in tow, I left my husband and our painfully failing marriage behind and due to life circumstances, moved in with my mom in my childhood home in the outskirts of Houston. When I enrolled my daughter at my former elementary school, I was delighted to find that my fifth grade social studies teacher was the lead counselor at the campus.
Fast forward two years and one divorce later, and you will find my ex-husband and I in the midst of reconciliation. One of my conditions for getting back together is that he must move back to Houston—specifically, Cypress. I wanted to be near my mom, and I didn’t want the kids to have to switch schools yet again. My daughter was going into the sixth grade to the same middle school I attended, and my son would be a kindergartner at the elementary school to which our new home was zoned. We settled in to the new house, the new re-marriage, and our new life in Cypress slowly, but surely.
It is a decision for which I am grateful every single day.
In middle school, my daughter played basketball and ran track with kids of people I went to high school with. Her summer league swim team coach was a former swim coach of mine from my own middle school years. My son was in kindergarten class with the son of the high school band director—the one who had been there when I was in high school, the one who lives in my best friend’s old house, the one who will be his band director this year as he enters his freshman year at my alma mater. And although my daughter has graduated high school (yes, the same high school I graduated from), surviving yet another one of my swim coaches as her AP U.S. History teacher, my soccer coach as her health teacher, the afore-mentioned band director, and a whole host of other crazy connections (like her photography teacher’s wife being the sister of one of my high school boyfriends and the mom of one of my son’s friend’s friends), she still can’t quite escape the interconnectedness that is Cypress, and neither can my son.
Recently, he divulged the fact that he has a girlfriend. It’s all super sweet and super innocent. They are both in band, and exchange innocuous texts here and there (yes, I read them). When they decided they wanted to go to a movie, I told him I had to actually speak to his girlfriend’s mom on the phone first. Turns out that she knows two of my friends—one of whom I used to babysit for and who is one of my high school friend’s sisters who played in a community band with my mom and whose daughter once babysat for my children.
As I type this, I am in the home of a friend who I met through a local running club. She is helping my son with his piano music for the synthesizer part he will play in this year’s marching band show. She lives around the corner from a gal from my co-ed soccer team who is dating my friend from elementary school, and down the street from another gal from my soccer team who I played with in college and reconnected with several years ago whose sister (who teaches at a high school with one of my high school classmates) reached out to me as a fellow cancer survivor.
And speaking of my cancer, upon my diagnosis, my mom’s high school friend from Omaha, Nebraska, made me a beautiful quilt. When she came down to Houston to attend the quilt festival with my mom, we discovered she had been the elementary teacher of the sister of my friend Jennifer, who I befriended through running and who shares an orthopedic doctor with me. When I went for my first CT scans to make sure the cancer hadn’t spread, the receptionist at the imaging center was the mom of a kid I taught how to swim some 20+ years ago.
Some connections are found out through loss. One of the women I coach in a running group mentioned the death of her former nanny…turns out that nanny was a girl I had also taught to swim many years ago. I have countless stories of these convoluted connections between people from my childhood, my children and my life as an adult. It sounds almost backwoods scary, but really it is just a community where people have found a home and friendships that are more like family than not.
Cypress is a hodge-podge of people and animals, some of whom live in great big master-planned communities, some of whom live in a trailer, some of whom live in an old homestead with a donkey or cows or chickens or horses or some combination of all of the above. It is bus stop breakfasts, outdoor movie nights, and a place where you always feel at home. And although our area (not yet an incorporated township or city) would be beyond unrecognizable to the Germans who once settled here, where the old rice patty fields have become Targets and grocery stores, you can still find plenty of green spaces along Big and Little Cypress Creeks where you can walk far enough into the woods to forget the roar of the hurrying trucks rushing by and remember why you live here, right here where you swore you never would when you were a young adult. Ride your bike just a few miles, and you will see hawks, egrets, herons, rabbits, and maybe even a coyote or a bobcat.
Go to my high school’s football game on a Friday night, and you will see a high school classmate cheering on his daughter in drill team. You will see a mom you once babysat for whose children now have children. You will see the band director who lives in your best friend’s old house. You will see me singing the school song played by the marching band, possibly with a tear in my eye as I watch my son tap out the notes in the percussion section.