I'm going to tell you a story.
One of the worst days of my life was the day Luvine Martin Wiener died. Though it's been over a decade, I can still remember every terrible moment of the day I put my grandmother in that soggy, tar choked earth. It was early July. I remember because I had my first starring role in a musical opening the week of the Fourth and she was going to come see me.
Then she wasn't.
So it was July, early July, high summer in Texas. I had to drive a long way to get to the graveside service, which was held in Batson Prairie. Batson Prairie has got to be the most godawful boring places in the world. Part of the reason is, much like the contested land between Israel and Palestine, Batson Prairie is a place that doesn't exist, really. The closest you can even get in terms of geographic acknowledgement is Batson.
Batson, Texas is an unincorporated community located on State Highway 105 in southwestern Hardin County. The entire sum total of Batson's history can be found on Wikipedia in no more than four lines:
This community was originally settled by the Batson family sometime before 1840. In October 1903, an oilfield was discovered to the north of the town, and soon after the population would boom to about 10,000 residents. The oil production would decrease by the mid-1920s, resulting in the population decline to about 600. In March 1935, another oil discovery would boost the population slightly, but over the next several decades, would decline again.
This is a place that only ever existed for the exclusive purpose of pulling crude out of the ground. Even in the best of times, it was a hard scramble place, one where, in the good years, kids got a pair of shoes for Christmas, and in the bad ones, a single piece of fruit. I know, because my grandmother told me once, how they got oranges in her stocking one year and how special it was.
This is where my grandmother is buried.
She grew up in the neighboring town of Saratoga, Texas. Once known as New Sour Lake, the town was renamed in a failed attempt to draw tourists to the hot springs of East Texas by echoing the name of the famous New York resort. Saratoga, was -- if you can even imagine it -- even smaller than Batson, where the population fluctuated from 1000 in 1925 down to 350 in the early 1950s.
This is a notable period because my grandmother was born in 1927 and lived there until 1945. In a world of small town girls, she was a tall strikingly beautiful girl in a town made for Thumbelina's smaller sisters. Then she moved to Houston, married my grandfather, and before too long found herself living in Guam while my grandfather was stationed there during Korea. She flew on planes. She sailed on military ships. She lived on a tropical island and worked in the secretarial pool. For a woman from no where, this must have been quite an adventure.
I've been thinking about her a lot lately, about how it must have been to go to Guam and live there on the base with my grandfather. I think about how strange and exotic it must have seemed, both to her and the people back home she sent postcards to. I've been thinking about how much she must have seen in comparison to the kids she grew up with, how her life must have taken her farther than she'd imagined as a girl, to places more remote and strange than she couldn't have envisioned.
Through the generosity of a close friend, I have been given an almost free trip (airfare, housing) to Kigali, Rwanda. This trip will include a volcano safari to see the gorillas in the mist.
I will get there flying through Amsterdam, where I have a few days to spend on my way home with a coworker to see a little bit of The Netherlands. I will be gone for almost a month, some of it as a working vacation. Thanks to my terrific employer, I have the ability to leave for this incredibly long amount of time and still keep my job. Not only are they allowing me to go, they're excited for me, which is a testament to the wonderful people I work with and how much my life has improved with my new circumstance.
Until now, my travel abroad experience has consisted of a single day spent in Victoria, British Columbia. As it stands today, I don't even have a stamp in my passport.
But in a few short weeks, all of that will change. I would be lying if I said I wasn't nervous, but I'm more excited than anything else. All my life, I've wanted adventure. If this doesn't qualify, I don't know what does.
So if I'm a little absentee over the next few weeks, dear reader, I apologize. I have a lot of ducks to get in a row before I leave, but I promise, there will be updates aplenty, and some of them will even be perfume related. Because this is part working vacation, you can even expect some updates from Kigali in May.
So stick with me while I'm away, will you? We're about to have a wild ride.