Dear Boots: May 2024

By Anna Mitchael

Questions from Deep in the Heart of Texas

Dear Boots,

I just booked a room for my son’s Baylor graduation, and Waco hotels are as expensive as in a big city! What’s going on in the heart of Texas?

— From, Wondering in Wichita

Dear Wondering,

My grandmother used to do this thing where every time we showed up to visit, she would hold us out at arm’s length and look us up and down for what seemed like a very long time to children who had been stuck in the car for hours. After her examination she would always say, “I should have put you all in a bubble when I could.” In thinking about your question, I can’t help but feel like my grandma might have — taking a big picture view of what our beloved town is growing into and saying, “Oh Waco, if only I could have put you in a bubble.”

Isn’t it just the way we live these days that most issues end up with people staring at each other from two opposite ends of the bull; growth in Waco is no different. One group thinks Waco should race forward at top speed: If we could get those hotel room prices doubled in a year that would be just grand! Then there is the other, opposing group. We remember when downtown was a ghost town. How if you mentioned to someone what city you were from you got a blank stare, maybe followed by someone asking if you know so-and-so in Dallas. Because isn’t Waco like a suburb or something?

We can chuckle about how those were the days, but it’s hard to look at it without wondering, “Were they better days?” It’s hard to compete with a solid feeling of nostalgia — one of those memories that sneaky-crawls up and warms you from head to toe with happy details in focus and difficult parts blurred almost to invisibility. The nostalgia is real though. Sometimes when I think of walking down those ghost-town streets with my husband, on our way to eat in a restaurant that might have one or two other tables of diners, I feel light-headed at how much has transpired in a relatively short time. Then I think back to my grandmother. In all those arrivals, in all those years, she never held us at a distance when she saw how we had grown and changed almost beyond recognition. She never turned us away. On the contrary, she always invited us in. Asked a million questions. And did everything she could to know us in this new stage.

Plus, even on days I feel extra bent out of shape because of the distance we’ve all traveled, I must admit — there is a certain thrill in getting to fling open your door, not knowing exactly what you might find on the other side.

— Love, Boots

Dear Boots,

How do I make sure my kids have the best summer ever?

— From, Valley Mills Mama

Dear Mama,

Ah, the best summer ever. I know that summer. It came after the spring when I never lost my temper. Which followed the Christmas when everyone got everything they wanted. And before that was the fall when algebra and physics homework were love songs the family sang after our four-course home-cooked meals, before devotionals and without fail.

Mama, I love your goal setting, and I am drawn to your heart that wants this for your children. But even the idea of orchestrating the very best time people can have for three full months is so loaded with expectations — the seeds are actually exploding out of the pepper. It makes me think of when my 5-year-old daughter was really trying to figure out how to tell a good joke. If somebody didn’t laugh, she would get right up next to their face and would say, very sternly, “Now it’s your turn to laugh.”

With all that said, I know mamas who have had luck with summer bucket lists. There are families who plan all the livelong day for a calendar full of camps and activities, and from what I hear, it’s all a swinging success. I have a feeling it all comes back to how your boots are sewed together — just thinking about that level of forcing the fun puts some sweat on my brow.

When I think back to the best summers of my childhood, some of the best times we had were absolutely due to effort and intention on my parents’ part. But it wasn’t the high orchestration that wove them into our minds. On the contrary, it was usually the space between the notes, when we were our messy, not reaching for anything, letting it all hang out, selves.

Whether you go for heavy planning or you lean into the light, my wishes are for you and your family to have a summer full of excellence. BEST SUMMER EVER feels hard at the outset. But should you achieve it, I absolutely 100% would like you to come find me in September, get right up in my face, and say the following: “Now it’s my turn to laugh.”

Proven to be jaded and cynical, the least I will be able to do is serve you a four-course home-cooked meal. Served in an impeccably clean kitchen, of course.

— Love, Boots