Dear Boots: May 2023

By Anna Mitchael

Questions from Deep in the Heart of Texas

Dear Boots,

My daughter fell in love with bluebonnets this year. Until now, she never understood why I dragged her to a field every year for a photo. I’m thrilled she’s embracing this part of Texas that I love, but the only downside is how disappointed she is now to watch them fade. Any advice on how to help her say goodbye?

— From, Wildflower Blues

Recently one of my sons observed that I’ve never let a butterfly pass by without pointing it out to everyone in earshot. I’m pretty positive he didn’t mean it as praise, but I decided to take it that way. When I think of what’s rubbed off on me from people I love, the real treasures are what came as overflow from their quirky passions. My grandmother loved to compliment complete strangers on their shoes. When I was in my 20s, I had a close friend who was a conservationist and could not walk by a dripping faucet without dropping a “waste not, want not” under her breath. My mother loves battleships. Now I’ve become an announcer of butterflies. Kudos to you for relentlessly dragging that child to fields of regional-specific flowers that make your heart sing.

It doesn’t always work to pass on what we love, but when it does, the end product sure is sweet.

It’s easy to want that sweetness to go on forever. From where I sit, that inclination puts you in a prime position to point out to your daughter where the world fails us. Not the natural world with its wildflowers and butterflies, but what we have built atop that one. Where on a scale of 1 to 10, we believe life should always be at 11. We should always be happy. Flowers should always
be blooming. Success should always be knocking on — or plowing through — the door.

If we buy into that thinking, when tougher times come, we can feel like something’s wrong with us, not realizing every living thing endures ebbs and flows. Beginnings and endings. Seasons of less and plenty. This is no accident that needs to be patched up, medicated or rewired: It is the design. If you, like me, believe those bluebonnets are not happenstance color blotches but instead were placed by a God with a plan, then there is comfort. Both when the blooms are at 11 and when they fade too. Not comfort of the condescending pat-ya-on-the-back variety, but in the way we learn to say goodbye, look for what’s still good around us and expect good we can’t yet imagine to one day appear.

Perhaps along with the goodbye you could save a piece of this flower season for your daughter to remember. The first year I took pictures of my boys in bluebonnets I also picked a couple, put them in between wax paper in a very heavy book and a couple months later (when I remembered what I’d done), I had a handful of pressed, forever flowers from that afternoon. Pair that with the gentle reminder that in order to have the long, lazy, school-free days of summer we must say goodbye to bluebonnets, and that might be enough to see your daughter through until next spring.

— Love, Boots

Dear Boots,

Last week I was downtown and met the nicest tourists from Virginia. They wanted to know why none of the main roads in Waco run east/west or north/south, and I didn’t have a good answer for them. Do you?

— From, Tourist Trapped

During football season, there was a commercial that played a lot, where a group of middle-aged adults were all standing in a parking lot talking about the best ways to park. The joke was that you don’t want to turn into your parents, which is a super funny joke until you look up and realize you are the parent. Not only that, but you are a parent who often ends up in conversations about parking.

In our household the only conversations more scintillating than the ones about parking are the ones about driving, and we have plenty of them. My husband was raised in Waco, and it amazes me how we can get in the car to go somewhere I have driven on my own at least a hundred times, yet he will instinctively take a route I never could have dreamed up.

All of these alternate routes are possible because of our town’s roads. As you aptly described, very few of them make sense.

I’m sure there’s a good reason for this, and a handful of Waco historians are likely seeing red that I’m missing the opportunity to educate the populace. But to me, this falls under the umbrella of a conversation I had with an elderly gentleman not long after I moved to Waco.

I told him I was brand new to the area, and he said to me, “Then you’ll have to decide — either you’re going to be off your hinges and hide it, or you’ll be off your hinges and show it. Those are the only two ways in Waco.”

For a long while, when I thought about that conversation, I thought the man was off his hinges. Though the more I think about life and parking conversations and people who come here all the way from Virginia to buy cupcakes and candles, I wonder if the man wasn’t a bit right. And if maybe he’s not just talking about Waco, but about everywhere.

Do you feel like you’re living a life off the hinges, Tourist Trapped? Most days I don’t feel like I am as much as I could. But if what that man said is true, and Waco is comprised of people who are, in our own ways, a little unhinged, maybe our roads are nothing more than a reminder of that reality. Even if we want to pretend we totally have everything under control, the grid we’re mastering makes as much sense as wet spaghetti “arranged” on a wall. Being looser, a little less self-important and allowing more wandering might look like getting lost but will be far from it.

As the elderly gentleman said to me years ago, “I’ve found a lot more joy in being unhinged.” I wonder what the Virginians would say to that.

— Love, Boots