Bluebonnet Spring

If you can, turn this on and listen to this song during my post. (But don't watch the video) It's one of my lifelong favorite songs by an old favorite folk singer, Nanci Griffith, who is from Texas. The nostalgia of this song extends back at least twenty years for me, probably more, a nostalgia I share with my mom and sister. 

We woke up early Saturday to follow Annette to Hubbard in order to get the house ready for the memorial luncheon that would follow the graveside ceremony for Debby. It had been a very late night, and we carried our sleepy girls in their jammies to our little blue Prius.

Driving along the small bright morningtime highway out of Waco toward Hubbard, Texas, I kept trying to remember the name of the Nanci Griffith song that talked about bluebonnets: "This is the only place on earth bluebonnets grow..." There were meadows of bluebonnets along each side, horses, and old fashioned buildings with rusty signs from sixty, eighty years ago. My mind wandered to the 1950's, to little bright smiled curly haired Debby's life here in the Texan country, with her milkman daddy and her cowboy uncles, old houses, Mama B's close encircling arms, cousins all the same age, all together in Texas as if time will last forever and nothing will ever change. 

In the meantime, I played a few other Nanci songs with strong Texas vibes, full of the haunting memories, low lush trees and slow, long sunlit afternoons that strike me as particularly central Texan. Driving along slow and steady, tiny roads not paved for decades going off to either side, every street holding ghosts of someone else's memories, it wasn't long before I was weeping.

And I did find the song, "Gulf Coast Highway." Tears streamed down my face. I was behind the wheel so I had to check it a bit, wiping my cheeks quick, trying to laugh it off to Darin, who was tearing up too. "The only thing we've ever owned, is this old house here by the road. Days were sweet, our nights were warm. Seasons change, jobs would come, the flowers fade. This old house felt so alone when the work took me away. And when she dies she says she'll catch some blackbird's wings and she will fly away to heaven come some sweet bluebonnet spring." 

I guess when you're traveling everything seems more alive because of the new things you encounter. We heard a calling in the trees, the day before in Waco, and all over our Texas ramblings after that, a call that stirs the bones. It is commonplace there. The grackle makes a call so crystal clear and alarming, we would stop in our tracks. The bluebonnets, spreading so wildly across lands that probably abandoned care long ago. Texas, state of oil rigs and rocket testing and little care for recycling, state of big trucks and big tractors, smoke and oil and traffic. Old weathered metal water tower standing tall, marking the two laned entrance to every tiny new town. Names like Corsicana, Hubbard, Dawson, Mexia, Temple, Moody, Malone. Tucked away in these quite little corners of land, bluebonnets wild and free, as far as the eye can see.

Down a tiny street in Hubbard, after the Dairy Queen, down tree lined East 2nd avenue a couple blocks, past tire swings and small unassuming homes, lawns and trees so green you shade your eyes, there is this beautiful white two story old home that immediately strikes you. A place of family and old times and memories. This is the Savage family home, the house that Darin's pop Mac Savage bought for his parents after the war, the place that Auntie Jean Savage still maintains, the place that the community holds dear for holding its past close.

The girls were still in their pajamas when we arrived, and immediately had to try out the porch swing.

The girls and I took our chance to explore while Daddy and the others set up coolers full of Shiner on ice, chairs and tables and programs and photographs.

Top of the stairs:

The girls found a rag doll, and we love the antique quilts.

The old wooden staircase (all original) that every Savage descendant fears their kid will tumble down.

Daybed on the sun porch with cousin Mackie and Louisa, second cousin Mark's wife, who loves babies.

 A couple miles out of town is the family cemetery. We were all here fifteen years ago to bury Debby's father, Macca Savage, the youngest of the nine Savage kids. Many of those original Savage siblings are gone now, but at that time I got to meet most of them. Smiling and jovial Uncle Pat, sweet and hospitable Aunt Fran, they made such impressions on me. Now I got to see many of their children, Debby's cousins, who grew up with her and remember her so well from through the years.

Infant gravesites everywhere. It seems this particular couple, G.W. and A.E lost three small babies over the years. My girls are related in some distant way to everyone in this plot, just as this land and these bluebonnets sing in their blood. 

Saying good-bye. We had this beautiful urn made by our friends, local potters Brian Hayes and Sarah Murray, who open their peach orchard every summer. My mom's husband Jack made each of the three sons a gorgeous handmade smaller vessel so that each could keep a portion of the remains. Darin traveled with this weighty urn in his carry on bag, weighty in every way. What a journey. What a long way back to Texas, the land of Debby's birth and the homeplace for her spirit. It felt right to leave her here, with the heart shaped stone that Annette and DeeDee had made for her.

It still feels unreal sometimes. Debby was a huge part of my life for so long. I still think of her in pain when I was in pain, in childbirth with Lucy, she and Christy pacing the halls; she couldn't watch. I think of working with her years ago at New Morning Shelter, where she was my boss, and how we'd spend hours on the phone during my graveyard shifts, gossiping and bemoaning and discussing every tiny thing. She never slept through the nights. She could laugh long and loud, and she could cry as easily. I think she was looking for deep connection around every corner, but it was harder to find and took more work than she expected, something more than she could do. I think that she felt lost, alone. despite her huge and desperate love for her sons and grandchildren. It breaks my heart to think of the misery she endured as she grew older, got injured, took medications, and gave into despair. Mostly, on this trip, it reminded me that our childhood is a real and vibrant part of us, one that we must never reject, because its truth, our families and connections and memories and landscapes, can save us.

Back at the Savage house, the kids played with toys that Mackie provided, coon skin caps and plastic cap guns and dress up. We were warned many times of fire ants, and we watched them clamor on tree roots and earthpiles, and we got bit anyway. (Especially Jackson, who was very brave!) 

The street

Darin with Aunt "Nub" (Lena), Grandma DeeDee's sister, who lives in neighboring town, Dawson. 

The scene:

As the group disbursed in the afternoon, we followed cousin Mark to a vast field of bluebonnets. What a treat to romp around there! The kids plunged waist-deep, rolling around, laughing, scampering up the hillside. Ashley and I followed behind, worried about the ones we were trampling and trying to lift them back up. 

Darin's aunt Annette and uncle Mike.

This amazing blueberry field and a massive expanse of vibrant paintbrush directly across the road are right next to cousin Tara's farm, Rancho Starvo, which I remembered very well from my last visit 15 years ago as one of my favorite places on earth. It's been owned by her branch of the family at least forty years. 

We went tumbling onto this property like it was Disneyland. There are three tire swings, a wrap around porch with all kinds of kid stuff including bunkbeds where the grandkids sleep on summer nights, a pond for fishing or taking a dip (as Sinjin and his friends did!) and donkeys and cows to feed and adore. There are kiddie cars to ride and ATV's for the bigger kids, and 150 acres to explore. 

But maybe most exciting for me is the interior of the beautiful old farmhouse. Tara has remodeled three times now. She always maintains the classic rustic Americana style and many original details and artifacts. Ahhhhh, I could just breathe it all in, sleep and and eat and relax here in my dreams!

dining area.

downstairs bedroom

the parlor

nook at the top of the stairs

 the stairwell

the nursery

that antique iron crib held all nine of the Savage babies!

these antique quilts!

Tara's three sons, who are now all grown with little ones of their own.

cutest kitchen

This building wasn't here when I was here before. It's an outdoor entertainment area. Now I HAVE to come to one of the family reunions!

back of the main house.

Tara brought Ashley and I each white wine in a tall plastic wine glass to sip as we roamed about. It was my first glass of white wine for the season (I drink it most in springtime on warm afternoons) and it was PERFECTION. Made the already gorgeous day just that much more dreamy.

Wine buddies.

Tara had heart-shaped buckets of carrots for the donkeys and heart shaped buckets of broken up crackers for the fish. The kids were in heaven!

Tara says the sun sets just beyond that pond; they sit in the big colorful Adirondack chairs when they're out here and just rest and watch. 
It's so unbelievably beautiful out here. In your bones, you feel the truth of the Thoreau quote: "There was pasture enough for my imagination." You feel how we need space, openness, green and blue, land to allow our hearts and bodies to flourish, our inner worlds to expand. 

she'd never stop!

That day spent amongst bluebonnets and old houses out in the middle of Texas made me feel wild as a flower, rooted as a tree, and free as a child. 

I am so glad we got to spend our last day with Debby that way.


Tera said…
What a beautiful and moving tribute to Debby. It's full of heart and soul. Your photos, along with your words, so lovingly tell the story of a beautiful woman.
Alicia P. said…
Oh Heather, my gosh. I really have no words. Poignant beauty everywhere here.
Tina Dawn said…
Such a sad reason for you to be there, but how wonderful that your family has an ancestral home to gather in to say goodbye. As I read this, I was wishing I could have known Debbie and perhaps become her friend, we were quite close in age, and I am a great listener! (I find it is a helpful trait in a friend}. Thank you for adding a touch of love to my morning! Tina

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