c/o Liz Hilton

c/o Liz Hilton

On Friday, my mom texted me pictures of the Texas mountain laurels that sit right on the edge of our property, purple flowers in full bloom emitting their unmistakable sweet, fruity scent.

“It’s Mountain Laurel time!” she wrote. “Thinking of you and sending grape kool-aid vibes your way.”

There was a mountain laurel outside my theater in high school. I remember leaving every late winter rehearsal and getting hit with the warm, humid air smelling sweetly of grape Kool-Aid. Just thinking about it gives me an indescribable feeling. Nostalgia is the best word I can think of, but it’s not quite right. Homesickness, perhaps. I’m not sure.

Whatever it is, it’s pervasive. On Tuesday, as the cold Connecticut rain pattered outside, I put on a Lyle Lovett playlist in the Alpha Delta Phi library. My mother, born and raised in Texas, brought me up on Lyle. I remember singing along to “That’s Right (You’re Not From Texas)” and “If I Had a Boat” as they played from the family iPod and, even though most of my childhood was set in bitter cold Minnesota, the music felt like a warm Texas sunset. Now, back in the North, I can’t help but long for my Lone Star home.

It’s strange, though. Sometimes this longing is for stuff that I actually remember—like smelling the mountain laurels or eating Whataburger in my car with my friend as a hot breeze blows through the windows—but a lot of it isn’t. It’s a nostalgia for the Texas of Lyle Lovett, the Texas that my mother grew up in and my grandparents moved to: a Texas I never knew. As I was sitting in the ADP library, “This Old Porch” came on.

“This old porch is like a big old red and white Hereford bull / standing under a mesquite tree / out in Agua Dulce,” Lovett crooned in the first refrain. “And he just keeps on playing hide and seek / with that hot August sun / just a-sweatin’ and a-pantin’ / cause his work is never done.”

c/o Caitlin McWeeney

c/o Caitlin McWeeney

It awoke that feeling in me—that nostalgia for something I never had—and as I sat there swaying with the music, I felt myself being transported somewhere else. I was cruising along in my grandpa’s long-gone white Buick convertible, the signature grape Kool-Aid smell in the air as I wove my way through the hill country roads. I was sitting on the main street of a small Texas town, sipping an iced tea and shelling peanuts. I was in a world that existed solely between the music and me.

I used to be ashamed of my Texan side. Blame Greg Abbott, the Texas state government, and every northerner who’s ever grimaced and asked “From like, the good part or the bad part?” I’ve lived in five different states and whenever someone would ask me where I was from I’d say “I was raised in Minnesota,” or “I was born in Connecticut,” never mentioning the Lone Star state unless absolutely necessary. This past year, that changed.

My grandparents, who’ve lived in Austin for 60 years, decided to sell their house. It makes sense. They’re not as young as they once were and can’t keep their home up as easily anymore. The halls and fixtures that they designed and built have become too much to take care of. It’s time. Still, it’s not easy. Hearing the confirmation that they plan to move out sometime in the next few months left me more than a little shaken. The thought of losing one of my family’s anchors to our home has made me reassess my relationship with Texas. Brushed across that landscape of family history, the last refrain of Lovett’s “This Old Porch” hit different.

“This old porch is just a long time / of waiting and forgetting / and remembering the coming back / and not crying about the leaving,” Lovett sang in a defiantly nostalgic tone. “And remembering the falling down / and the laughter of the curse of luck / from all of those sons-of-bitches / who said we’d never get back up.”

The threshold of that house might never see another excited group of guests cross over it; its parlor might not be the site of many more in-depth discussions of Texas river systems or the world my grandparents knew; its dining room may not be home to any more all-family dinners. But everything we knew that happened there did truly happen. That old porch was just a long time of waiting, forgetting, and remembering the coming back—and not crying about the leaving. Lyle Lovett really does hit, I’m telling you.

I wish I was there, I won’t lie. I wish I was in Texas, under the sun, smelling the grape Kool-Aid, saying goodbye to the house. I wish I was able to wander the hill country and eat some Amy’s Ice Creams and sit out in Zilker Park and just take in the world around me. Lots of wishing. But, to tide me over in the meantime, I have the picture of the mountain laurel, the crooning of Lyle Lovett, the nostalgia for a world I’ve never known, and the memories of the state I call home. I’d never considered myself a proud Texan until these past few months. Now, if someone asks, I’ll tell them exactly where I’m from with a long-dormant twang in my voice.

This sounds like weird rambling, I’m sure. People who were born in Texas might yell that I’m not a “real” Texan—to which I’d respond with a lil bit of Lyle Lovett wisdom—and people from anywhere else might be asking why it’s such a big deal. Maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s just me wishing I was warm as the Middletown false spring falls back into freezing rain. Who knows. 

What I do know is that we have to be proud of ourselves and our homes. Lovett was right, a space is only as sacred as our memories of it. We have to remember the falling down, the coming back, and the getting back up. Whether those memories are from this world or from our imagination, they’re important to us. I can’t wait to be back in Texas for spring break, but until then, I’ll be listening to Lyle and dreaming of grape Kool-Aid.

“Well that’s right / you’re not from Texas,” Lovett plays in my earbuds as I finish this article. “That’s right, you’re not from Texas / that’s right, you’re not from Texas / but Texas wants you anyway!”


Sam Hilton is a member of the class of 2025 can be reached at shilton@wesleyan.edu.

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