The Diaspora Dilemna

If you can’t beat ’em…move.

The problem with raising kids in a cool and groovy place like Austin: when it comes time for them to go forth into the world, they soon figure out the coolest place in Texas is the one they are leaving.  That means their parents were cool long before they were.  And that realization leads to unacceptably high levels of cognitive dissonance.

We are experiencing this now with ED (elder daughter), who moved to Seattle 18 months ago.  That’s a cool place, right?  Grunge…Nirvana…coffee shops…rain… Yes, lots of rain.  Turns out, she thinks rain is a pain.  Despite the fact that her father lived in Eugene, Oregon for eight years and rarely saw the sun during that time, ED recently informed us that she has had enough with the rain already, and is moving back to Texas in May, transferring to either UT or U of Houston.  I didn’t mind so much the lack of sunshine when I lived in the Pacific Northwest, but then I’m a depressive personality to begin with.  And I rather liked seeing moss grow in places you would never expect, like the roofs of the houses.  Or under your car’s hood.  Or between your teeth.

But ED couldn’t hang with it, so back she comes.  Meanwhile, YD is making noises about not leaving at all when she graduates next year, preferring to attend ACC rather than leave the Land of the Lotus Eaters.  I think it’s not so much ACC as it is SXSW, ACL, etc…

Austin is just too damn groovy for its own good!  Our children refuse to leave!

It’s hard to make the case otherwise, if they plan to live in Texas.  But then again, college years are your great exploration years, straddling dependence and independence, having all your options on the table.  Wouldn’t you want to experience the Lure of the Open Road?  The thrill of The New?  Clean your damn room first, then make like a tree and Get Outta Here?

Lest it appear that I am a heartless old coot eager to kick my children out of the nest just so I can convert their rooms into further satellites of the Man Cave, where I now sit peacefully typing on my computer, sipping a Diet Coke,  surrounded by my art and music, in the shadow of my foosball table… Well, never mind.  This is an undeniable truth.  But my kids know they will always have a place here!  The lot is almost an acre, and there’s plenty of room out back to pitch a tent.

On the other hand, my wife is delighted to have ED coming back to Texas.  She has proved a useful ally in the ongoing discussion of what a challenge I am to live with.  Only a few people are qualified to speak on this topic.

We are hardly alone.  Lots of kids who grew up in Austin don’t want to leave, or they move back after dipping a toe into the Cold, Cruel World.  And why would they want to leave a town that, in addition to having a major music/tech/cinema festival every fifteen minutes, also boasts Zilker Park, Barton Springs, Mt. Bonnell, the Hike & Bike Trail, Texas Hill Country, BBQ and Tex-Mex you don’t find everyday, the State Capitol when you want to yell at a big building about stuff, and year-round sunshine?  Plus, all their friends are still here, refusing to leave also.

I’m pretty sure this is what has contributed, in recent years, to the conversion of former hell-holes like Marfa TX into small, vibrant communities.  It’s made up of Austin’s Empty Nesters who have given up, handed the house keys to their progeny, and established a new toehold somewhere so inhospitable that they are unlikely to be followed.

Come to think of it, this offers a pretty compelling explanation of what is behind the mysterious Marfa Lights.  Even extraterrestrials are willing to go to great lengths to escape their children.  And given their obviously advanced technology, if they came up with Marfa as a solution, who are we to second-guess them?

Balmorhea beckons!  Or as we will come to know it, Barton Springs West.


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