My mother emailed me last week to see if I wanted to help her get her Christmas decorations from the attic and set up her tree. It was a little out of the blue, but I've been meaning to visit anyway. It's a shame that she should have to email me to ask; I could have offered. But, there are sisters, brothers-in-law and nephews who live in or around Boerne, and who tend to do things like this for her. It made me very happy that she reached out to me.
So, on the Friday after Thanksgiving I took a drive up to my hometown of Boerne, Tx. My route home is generally dictated by which part of Austin is my beginning point. From the Northwest, I would go west on 290 to 281 South and see the towns of Dripping Springs and Blanco. That route shows off the Hill Country, with vast expanses of trees and views from atop the elevations that give this part of the Edward's Plateau its name. But, I live East now, so I take the toll road around Austin and end up on the interstate, going south through the bigger towns of San Marcos and New Braunfels – part of what is now called the IH 35 Corridor, and it includes outlet malls and lots of shopping centers. Either way, I end up on SH 46 West and get to see a nice part of the Hill Country, even if I miss 281's elevated section of it.
I love my mother's home. It brings me great comfort to be there. But, she didn't live there until I had left Boerne to go live in San Antonio – the nearby 'big city'. When I lived in Boerne I wasn't quite the level-headed person that I am now, and it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to say that I wasn't particularly fond of the memories of that town. I don't know that the town was particularly fond of me. But, I was a disaster, so it's possible I misunderstood. My brother, my sister and I (the last 3 of 8 children) have had to learn, and relearn that a lot of what we experienced here was due to us (or our quirky family), rather than the townsfolk itself.
I arrived at my mother's house and soon my sister, Marty, came over. My brother, James, and his wife stopped in to tell Mom hi on the way out of town, back to West Texas. Then my brother-in-law, Glen, came over to bring me a bowl that I had left at their house last July. (I love being in a family where somebody doesn't think twice about getting up and taking a glass blow to another house if asked.) There I sat on my mother's sofa with all of these people around when my cell phone rang. Somebody very dear to me has been struggling and is currently resting and recovering. Even though it was rude, I didn't want to miss the call, so I snuck out of the room to talk for a few minutes – a precious few. He sounded good. He's clearly getting better, but there is still a very large hill in front of him to climb. When he had to get off the phone, I went back into the living room with the others. Marty was heading to her daughter's house to watch her grandkids and give her daughter a chance to rest, but before she left she invited me to Dickens on Main – an event in downtown Boerne. They close off Main Street and all of the shops stay open until 10. (Most of them.) I thought that would be nice to see, so we made plans for her and Glen to swing by later for me.
After lunch I handed Mom a couple of boxes from her attic. Then there were some that were heavier, so I just went up and down the ladder bringing them down. After several trips she asked if that was all, that she hoped that was all. I looked and let her know that there were five more boxes. It's amazing how things like this can kind of accumulate without one realizing it. We found the box holding the artificial tree and managed to get it assembled in the living room, and the lights on, which was an ordeal. One would assume that if you plug the beginning of a string of lights into the wall, then there should be an end to that string – an end that the next string could plug into. This has been my experience for my entire adult life and even before. I'm not saying that the other ends of the strings of lights were incorrectly designed; we just couldn't find any of them. I ended up plugging three sets of lights into the extension cord, which was dangling in the tree from the string of lights on the top section – on the back side, against the wall. My mother was ready to chunk the whole thing onto the street and go buy another one, but that would involve getting into the car and going to a store, which neither of us was inclined to do at that particular moment on the Friday after Thanksgiving. By 6 o'clock we had managed to put up the tree, get the lights to come on and decorate it. Kind of sad, considering how much time we had had, and how many other boxes there were to go through. It was her plan to get rid of a lot of it. She would need a house twice the size of hers – without any other decor in the way – in order to use all of it.
Mom and I rested. She decided that her knees hurt to much to go downtown with us. Around 6:30 Marty and Glen came by to pick me up and drive us to downtown Boerne. Glen from the backseat asked, "Marty, where are you going? Marty, where are you going?" in a childlike voice. She patiently explained her choice of routes, given that Main St. was blocked off. We parked a few blocks away and wandered through the crowds. There really was an impressive number of people out and about that night. All of the buildings were decorated and covered in lights, there were vendors and food trailers and pockets set aside for events, like 'North Pole Plaza', 'Tiny Tim Square' and 'Dickens Village'. Some places had fake snow coming down (because we're in Central Texas and that doesn't really happen naturally.) Marty wanted to see a performance called Bah Humbug, (in Dickens Village) which turned out to be a brilliant one-man show of A Christmas Carol. It was pretty incredible how he narrated and played the part of every character – including scenes in which two or more characters spoke to each other. He turned back band forth, switched hats and costume pieces, changed his accent and we more or less forgot that we were watching a one-man show. We were just watching the story being performed, and it was spot on! (From what I can find, it was put on by The Company Theatre, and acted by Damian Gillen. I'm trying to confirm.)
After the show we had a hot chocolate at the Daily Grind/Boerne Grill. We could have gone to any number of trailers that were set up along Main St. serving food and drinks. Right outside of The Daily Grind, for example, was a stand that sold coffee and beignets. The line for that booth went across the 5-lane street. There were trailers selling gorditas, popcorn, kettle corn, roasted/carameled pecans, kebabs and more. Blocks and blocks of people wandering the streets, a few in period costume. Some of them were in their 20's and without children. On a Friday evening. Hanging out in downtown Boerne. This was definitely not the town I left so many years ago.
Later, on the way back home, Glen sat in the backseat saying, "Marty, where are you going? Marty, where are you going?" When we got to the street my mother lives on he changed it to, "Now we going right." Apparently this is how their granddaughter rides in the backseat.
The next day Mom took me to breakfast and then we continued to assert Christmas into her home. After we tired from that we went to visit downtown in the daylight. While driving her in her car, I mentioned to my mother that the car behind us was driving very close, and that they seemed to be in a hurry (somewhat sarcastically.) Her reply was simply, "Well, you drive pretty slow." Not really a criticism, but since I brought it up... (I was trying to see how my hometown had changed!) Fortunately, I turned and the car behind me went straight.
First we visited The Christmas Shoppe on Main St. to taunt Marty while she worked. She mostly ignored us and tended to the actual customers. (I really wish that I could juggle. I would have taken three of those oh-so-fragile glass ornaments and gone to town.) Then we walked to the Dienger Building for a coffee. Years ago, when my mother worked for the Boerne Public Library, it was in this historic building. It was a beautiful library and loved by the community. They outgrew it about the same time that she retired. Now the building is a coffee shop/cafe/store (The Dienger Trading Co.) and they seem to be putting the building to good use. My mother walked me around, showing me where this small nook of tables had been the reference room – with beautiful large wooden tables for people to use while they researched – and here was where the 1614 Low German Bible had been on display. We had coffee with Natalie, who has adopted my mother as her own and who is now the assistant director of the beautiful brand-new library a little further along Main St.
Soon afterward I left my mother, letting her finish working through the boxes and boxes of Christmas. I had helped her set up a delicate glass nativity scene. I had lingered in her home, which I always find so relaxing. I had a couple of gifts to deliver from Mom to another sister in San Antonio. So, I took my leave of Mom and of Boerne, Tx. I'll go again, at a time when it isn't so hectic and visit the walking trails they've put in, visit the park by the river, which is now closed to vehicles and part of the Cibolo Nature Center (another trail, as far as I can tell.) I spent years swimming with my brother and sister in that creek in that park. I'm not sure I want to go back, but I would like to see what they've done with it. You can't go home again, but I suppose if you hadn't been particularly fond of it, and you keep your expectations low, then you might have a pleasant experience.