SoWT 3: Back from Texas

Alicia, Phuong, Lauren, Heather and me tortilla tossing
Hey everyone,
I got back Sunday from a journey across Texas to Dallas and Waco. It ended up being something like 1,239 miles total. Considering my car only has about 30,000 miles on it, this was a major trip for her. 🙂
It all started last Wednesday when my dad and I left little Clovis for the big D. My dad drove the whole way, despite my instance that I help at some point. I was grateful though because it allowed me to get some of my reading done before Oxford. I just have some Chaucer left for Brit Lit. My philosophy prof., however, just sent us his syllabus saying we have four more books to read that we didn’t know about. :/
Anyway, made the journey to Dallas safely but when we got about 2 1/2 miles away from our exit we came up on some super heavy traffic. We spent almost 3 hours in a stop-and-go line of cars. It was crazy, cars were overheating, people were getting too anxious and causing minor accidents. We found out later on the news that it was all because a car stalled on the highway and an eighteen-wheeler ran into it, causing a major explosion and several deaths. We were lucky enough to be at the tail end of the traffic so we didn’t see any of this or its aftermath.
After arriving at my grandparent’s house in Carrollton, we mainly chatted and caught up with my aunt Virgina (one of my dad’s six sisters) and their dad, my grandpa. Grandma’s health isn’t so good so it was a little hard to chat with her. The doctors say it is a miracle that she is even as well as she is, but it makes me wish I would have been able to spend more time with her when I was young. We always lived so far away from my dad’s family so we only saw them once or twice a year growing up. It is better now that I live in central Texas like them though.
Still, 12 grown kids, now with their own families, have a lot of great stories. Cheaper by the Dozen has nothing on them. A good writer could preserve those memories…. tie them up in a neat little package….. I just wish I had the talent and the time to do it, before more of them are gone. It is a rare and odd disease that makes life so hard for my grandma, a disease related, of course, to Parkinsons. So many of their family has some effects from Parkinsons, including my own dad. I see their energy, ambition for life, all the struggles they have conquered and I pray for a cure. Something that can keep them healthy and safe. Because I see my aunts and how they care for their parents, how Grandpa watches out for Grandma and fights to keep her as healthy as he can every day, and I know that that could be me someday, not just watching like I am now, but also fighting when Parkinsons turns my family upside down.
While I was there, I made Grandma a binder full of pictures to point to when she needs something. Some of them were food or objects, others expressed emotion. Hopefully it will help them to be able to communicate with her better.
We also caught up with my aunt Vickie and her son Zach over pho soup at a Vietnamese place. My dad and I ended up not liking it very much and they could tell, haha. Zach later commented he thought we wouldn’t ever trust them to pick the place again! In defense of pho, it was really good when my aunt Karen took me to a place in Austin about a year ago.
The next day was much better however. The introduced us to a fabulous invention called a Movie Grill. It’s a movie theater where you can order diner-style food from your executive chair (with a small table in front.) It was really good and so was the movie. We saw The Proposal with Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds. Funny, a little awkward to be watching with the dudes (my dad and 13-year-old cousin) but otherwise a great matinee.
The last night there we got to see my aunt Venita since she was flying out with Virgina in the morning. (five of my aunts have worked for Southwest Airlines at one time, most of them for over ten years). It was a lot of fun to talk and go deep with her since we had just reconnected on my way back from Pennsylvania. A two-hour layover in St. Louis led to great conversation and fun times. 🙂
So after three family-filled days of new food, new makeup tricks and new memories with my dad, aunts and grandparents, it was time to head south to Waco. Keeping in mood with the trip, we hit bad traffic on I-35. again. Luckily a combo of atlas and the GPS in my phone told us it was ok to get off on I-45, go 8 miles out of the way, and join up with 35 onthe other side of the traffic. Otherwise we might have been sitting there for hours.
I told my friends to be ready by 10 a.m., but it was more like 11 when we got there. My dad picked up a t-shirt for my sister, left me with his amazing camera and three (accidentally dead) sets of batteries and hit I-35 again to go see Karen in Austin before they headed out to the backcountry in Michigan for a few weeks. Her oldest son just got married, but we couldn’t make the wedding, so it was good he went to see her.
That left me with  my super fun friends Phuong, Heather and Lauren for the day! We started off at Phuong and Lauren’s summer apartment in Heritage (the building where I live when I’m at school) and let Lauren unwrap her belated birthday present: a Hershey’s kiss bowl and raspberry-filled chocolates, both from the Hershey store in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Heather and I talked shop for a bit while the other two got ready and we were off to check on my storage unit. Everything seemed ok so we went to lunch at Kitok, a good Korean-American place. Literally half the menu is diner food and half is Korean food. Then we took some of the awesome "Oriental fries" to Jonatan, Heather’s fiance, at his ambulance station. We got to see inside the ambulance and the station and hear about life as an EMT. He had to go out on a call so we left for the Mayborn Museum.
I had never been to the museum, even though it was right across from my side of campus. Heather always said she was going to take me someday but that it was more fun with a group and lifegroup usually went. I wasn’t able to go the night that lifegroup went because of  newspaper and yearbook deadlines on the same night, though.
Getting to share it with Phuong, Lauren and Heather was cool though because we had just enough people to make it fun, but we didn’t have to worry about losing part of our group or anything. Overall, the museum was a great way to spend our time together. It had the normal fossils and a diVinci’s inventions exhibit, but most of it was a children’s science museum with all the classics. It had a bubble room, a costume room, reptiles, model trains and a walk-on piano. One of my favorites, of course, was the camera set up in front of a news desk with a TV screen hooked up. The camera also turned to show a weather map on a green screen. We stood in front of the green to point out the clouds on the TV were moving south, haha, then took a silly picture or two with it.
We also went outside and saw a historic Old West village set-up. It was ‘hott’r ‘n a firecracker’ out there, as we say in Texas, so we didn’t stay outside long.
The heat took us to Bahama Bucks, a place Heather showed me freshman year, to get one of the best snow cones ever. yum. We then tried to get my sister a car sticker at the Baylor Bookstore, but summer hours worked against us. We dropped off Phuong so she could get some homework done and drove to Heather’s soon-to-be apartment. lol Jonatan is living there alone for now until they get married so it was a bit like being at his place without him there, but it’s technically hers too, haha, so it’s cool. Alyssa met up with us there and we laughed and talked. It’s so good to have friends that you can be away from and come back to and things are just as overwhelmingly happy as ever. I hope we all have many more fun times there together this coming year. It holds much promise. 😉
We met up with Alicia, her boyfriend Michael and Phuong at Rudy’s for my favorite barbecue. We also met up with my dad, who drove back to Waco with barely any gas left in my poor car. See a while back he insisted on our family having locking gas caps and didn’t take the key with him when he left for Austin! We were afraid Sophie was going to break down and we would have to go get him and have it towed to a gas station! But luckily we chose to eat at the one good place with a gas pump out front, so no worries. haha
After Rudy’s, Alicia, Michael, Lauren, Phuong, Heather and I went to the suspension bridge for a time-honored Baylor tradition– throwing tortillas at a concrete pillar in the middle of the Brazos River. Supposedly if one lands on the pillar, which is the remains of an old bridge, the person who tossed it gets to marry a Baylor Boy/Girl. Silly? yes. Ignore such a superstitious blessing? Not a chance.
With an ample supply of four tortillas, we watched the pink and orange sunset to the soundtrack of the quacking ducks and the *splat, plop* of tortillas boucing off the concrete pillar. Lauren landed one (we have photo proof) and secured her fortune. I got as close as it gets but the wind wasn’t in my favor. i told Heather, Alicia and Michael that they didn’t have to worry anyway because they already had their Baylor catch. 🙂
Before I knew it Heather was climbing the ropes on the bridge and sitting on the long, wide steel beam high above the wooden bridge. I saw my cue and joined her, despite the fear that I unsuccessfully tried to hide from showing on my face. We had sat there once before, many sunsets ago, when we were first getting to know each other during the fall of my freshman year. It was one of the first big things we did together, when I knew we were going to be friends, when I first decided to trust her, and friends in general again. I didn’t know who this crazy, bridge-climbing chick was, haha, but something told me it was ok to follow her up there. And, in a way, that’s what I’ve been blessed to do ever since. 🙂
We climbed down and Alicia and Michael left. The four of us went to Sonic, then took Lauren and Phuong back because they had a lot to do and Lauren wasn’t feeling well. That left Heather and I to go see the movie "My Sister’s Keeper." We got there early and got to talk about books (the movie was based on a book) and our growing-up years. The day ended sad, however, with the most bittersweet, tragic movie I can remember seeing. It was good, but a big tear-jerker. Heather, who had read the book, told me about the differences between the two on the way to my hotel, which led to another, different, sad ending. Sigh, it was a great one for a girl’s weekend, the dudes wouldn’t have appreciated that one at all.
In the morning i took my dad to Antioch and got to have lunch at Fazolis with Heather, Lauren and Jonatan one last time before I go to Europe. I pleaded with them once more to get Skype since my phone won’t work there and we hugged goodbye once more. I really look forward to August and not having to leave them for a while. It is always hard.
The drive home went well. I drove most of the way and got to work on Chaucer when my dad drove a bit. My iPod died before we could finish my "baylor to clovis" length playlist so we got out my longest Hillsong CD and listened to it, both of us chatted out after a week of visiting. 🙂
One week until Oxford! It’s so crazy. i’ve been preparing for this for so long, but I still don’t feel ready to go at all. There are a million things to do, but I don’t know what half of them are yet, I’m sure, haha. Hopefully I can get caught up on reading all over again and start packing!
I’ll keep you posted,
Jenna
p.s. pics at http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/album.php?aid=275536&id=505490037

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