Educating the world about Texas one Yankee at at time.

Educating the world about Texas one Yankee at a time.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

What to do when the children go "native" in Texas

Last month, many Texas children started school for the first time or returned to school. My daughters started second grade; my friend’s son started first grade. Heather related the tale of Cody telling her about his first day:

“He said, ‘Mama, there’s a new girl in school—but she’s not my girlfriend,” he said.

“What’s her name?” Heather asked.

“I don’t know but it’s OK. She’s from Texas,” Cody replied. Yep. Heather’s boy’s gone native.

Well, of course he has. He was born in Texas. It stands to reason. And I must say I’m very proud of him. I like to think it was my influence that made him that way.

But seriously, folks, if your child was born in Texas, he or she is considered a Texan for life.

For many of you, this is good news. Some, however, will be less than pleased. I don’t know why.

Texas is a great place to raise children. The cost of living is low. There are more than two hundred colleges and universities from which to choose. There are many activities and events to attend as a family. There are a lot of great reasons to live here. But for some people, the shock of hearing their children utter, “y’all” the first time is unnerving.

I hope I can alleviate some of that fear.

Texans are friendly. Your child might develop a tendency to strike up conversations with strangers. Be sure to talk to your child about “stranger danger.” Not everyone is friendly here. But you can delight in the fact that your child will be happy and helpful to you and others.

The chances of your child experiencing a little farm life are better here than most places. You are never far from a pasture in Texas. You might not see that as a plus, but it is. There is no better place to learn life’s lessons than on a farm. Your son or daughter will learn a respect for life and learn the cycle of it on a farm. Farms also are a great place to learn humility. A cow doesn’t really care who you are, what your rank is, what you do for a living or who your daddy’s people were. If you tick her off, she’s liable to kick you or head-butt you, and often without warning. You’ll learn manners real fast.

There’s a lot of debate about Texas schools. We contemplate our independent school districts’ navels all the time. But I can tell you that I send my daughters to a Texas school and I am very confident in the district. I’m a product of Texas public schools and a private Texas college and a state graduate school. I went proudly to Austin College in Sherman, a private college, for my undergraduate degree. You don’t get in that school easily or for being stupid or lazy. We have several private colleges and universities of that same caliber. I hope one day to send my daughters to Austin College or a similar private school. And our state universities are those with which others have to reckon and I don’t mean in just athletics. You have, as I stated earlier, about two hundred from which to choose. Heck, you can’t swing a dead cat in this state without hitting an accredited institution at which you can earn a degree. If you stay in the Lone Star State, your little Texan’s chances of going to school to study what they want while staying home are pretty good.

And by the way, we have fabulous teachers in Texas. I’m the daughter of two of them. I had passionate, pro-active teachers all through my schooling, too. And I will defend their honor every time. Teachers are even better when they have the backing and support of their students’ parents. Don’t believe me? Get positively involved in your little Texan’s education. You’d be surprised how much it makes a difference.

Need to take your family for a vacation? Anywhere you go in Texas, you are sure to find a great adventure. Mountains? We got ‘em. Seashore? Yep, got that too. Desert? Forest? Lakeshore? Yep, yep and yep. And you might not need to drive very far. Then again, you might. This is Texas; the mileage is just a fact of life.

Your little Texan will develop a sense of belonging and cultural pride. It will be a cultural pride that transcends ethnicity. Texans are one people with many languages. In fact, we’ve been “pressing 1 for English” since the 16th Century and that’s all right. Spanish was our first language, along with French, well before it was English. Before that, it was the language of our Native American people. English, my friends, is the late-comer. Our exposure to other languages puts us in a position to become more cosmopolitan than our neighbors and that is a good thing.

The men who signed the Texas Declaration of Independence and those who fought during the Siege of the Alamo and the Battle of San Jacinto did not distinguish Mexican from American from European. In their hearts, they were “Texians,” and the “Texians” were one people. Through history and the bumps and jolts of the Civil Rights Movement we have drawn even closer to becoming one people. Ask any of us who we are and we will tell you, “I am a Texan.” Not “I’m Scots-English with Spanish, French and German roots,” or “I emigrated from South Korea.” No. It is almost always, “I am a Texan” and the definition of what that means is unique to each one, but clear to all of us.

So when your little one comes home and that tell-tale “y’all” slips out in conversation, don’t panic. Just be proud and know it is simply the first step in your family’s history in becoming real Texans.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Mum’s the word: What are those big ol’ flowers girls wear at the homecoming football game?

In the last blog post, I addressed the whole high school/college football homecoming mum phenomenon that’s evidently a Texas-only kind of thing. Sure enough, one of my gal pals, Juls, who is not from Texas, shot an e mail about ‘em out to our little gang of four very close friends, and the e mail traffic was just too good not to publish for all y’all.

Juls wrote: “I worked today selling homecoming mums for a fundraiser at Jasmin's school. While I've seen these elaborate ‘things’ at (a craft store) before, I've never known what they are. We never had anything like this up north so I don't really understand it. I got roped into selling them but I don't really get it. What are they FOR? I'd love to hear your take on this Texas tradition.”

Our resident super-Texan (other than myself, of course), Chris, wrote: “Mums are a cheap flower that give you a lot of bang for your buck. We, at Fairfield High School, have the school colors of maroon and gold, therefore we have mums in those colors to use as bases. We also use white, but usually only old ladies wear the white ones. They are used to show school spirit during Homecoming Week; at least that is how it started out.

“When I was in school, it was the gauge you used to measure the love your boyfriend had for you,” she continued. “The bigger and gaudier your mum was, the more he loved you. I do believe it was during the 1980s when mums started getting out of hand.

“I know one girl who had a triple mum: 3 HUGE maroon mums, pipe cleaner F H S letters glued on top of them, covered in net (helps keep the petals from dropping) and about 20 glitter-lettered ribbons hanging from the bottom of it, conveying messages from ‘GO EAGLES,’ ‘HOMECOMING 1980,’ ‘SENIOR 1981,’ ‘FLAG CORPS,’ ‘BAND,’ ‘RODEO CLUB,’ and the ever important, ‘JOHN LOVES BECKY,’ plus love knot ribbons, braided ribbons, ribbons with tiny gold footballs, tiny cow bells, tiny football helmets, horseshoes; if they made it into a plastic charm, it was dangling from that mum. The ribbons hung to the top of her boots. I, being the sweetheart I am, told her she looked like a @#*&$% bush, and to take that ugly @#*&$% thing off before we hit the field for halftime (I was Flag Corps Captain).

“When Sabrina was in high school, mums went all high tech with tiny battery powered lights that illuminated your mum. Ours in the 1980s ranged in price from about $15-$50. I think I paid around $120 for the one Aubrey got Emily his senior year, and it isn't unheard of for them to go for $200 a pop now a days.”

Niki wrote: “I've MADE mums that cost $250 in materials alone - that was 3 years ago!

“Mums are a way for people to show their importance in today's high school society - not even love of a boyfriend/girlfriend anymore. Parents give them to their kids, friend to friend, significant other to significant other - whatever.

“Our district still emphasizes the white mums, but then again, our colors are Columbia blue, red and white. They're just outlandish these days with stuffed animals and junk all over them; LED lights (are) in the flowers and braided into the hanging ribbons.”

“Oh…and you have to save the mums for all eternity afterward,” I added. “You keep ‘em hung up in your bedroom until they completely fall apart or the moths eat ‘em.”

Juls responded: “Thank you for filling me in on these. I knew you gals would have better insight into these things than I ever could. I saw them done in north Texas as well as here, but nowhere else so I think this is just a Texas thing.

“Because this is the first year they are being done at Jasmin's school (at least since the last 5 years) some of the kids had the same question, ‘What are they FOR?’ The mums we are making use a fake silk flower mum (you can choose what size and single or double) and ribbons and the ‘basic’ trinket package. The base mum is $45 which I'm told is a steal.

“I am curious; why chrysanthemums, though? I have always associated mums with funerals. Every family funeral I've ever been to I've come home with pots of chrysanthemums.”

Chris answered: “‘Cause they are cheap to buy fresh, they are in season and they last along time out of water. When this first started, there weren’t any silk mums.”

And that’s where the conversation ended. I must interject here that I am appalled that a TEXAS high school would curtail the mum tradition. An entire era of Texas high school students went without mums. I think that’s shameful.

But then, Juls lives in Houston. I’m just glad the school administration and parents saw the light before it was too late.

I don’t follow the series, mostly because I am horrified by the way the Hollywood entertainment machine boogers up all things Texan, but I am surprised the series “Friday Night Lights” (set in West Texas and allegedly all about Texas high school football) hasn’t addressed the all-important homecoming mum issue. It is, after all, very central to Texas high school football culture.

But then that would require Hollywood to actually understand Texas in the first place, and folks, that’s not happening anytime soon.


The Texas feminine culture, ritual of football explained

Football season is upon us. I can’t explain the sport to you, in spite of my Texas heritage. It was never a religion in my home when I was growing up. But, I can explain some of the culture and ritual involved with attending football games.

For Texas women, a football game is more than a sport. It’s a chance to showcase ourselves.

Football season is an opportunity to show off your wardrobe and how well you accessorize. It’s a social event during which to forge feminine friendships. And it’s a real good place to swap gossip.

Whether it’s a high school or university game, you will see Texas women all decked out in their casual finery. Every Hawkins High School football game to which I went, I never attended without my hair being perfect and having my lipstick on. Like my friends, I carried an arsenal of cosmetics in my purse for touch ups. To this day, I can draw my compact out of my handbag faster than a gunslinger can draw his pistol. You learn to be fast with the goods, lest you miss a play on the field.

At Austin College, we were pretty casual at our football games. Afternoon games in the late summer made it necessary to dress for comfort, but that didn’t mean we had to sacrifice style. My sorority and I attended in our jerseys and designer jeans. This was in the 1980s, so of course no hairdo was complete without a big bow that matched our Theta Sigma Chi jerseys. This showing of the Greekness was a prelude to spring rush. We only held rush in the spring at AC, so the fall was spent looking as good as possible to potential members. It was all about the marketing and public relations and pretty girls draw in other pretty girls. And pretty girls are always at football games. This is where we got the skinny on who was going to rush whom, what happened after the previous night’s party and which college professor was not getting tenure. We also got to eyeball rival sororities and what they were up to.

I went to work for Texas A&M University in the early 1990s. Attending football games was not a requirement, but I went. I mean, this is Aggie football after all. And the women were drop-dead gorgeous. Slim, long denim pencil skirts, English riding boots and Ralph Lauren turtlenecks, Dooney & Bourke handbags, designer sunglasses…the works. The women rooting for the opposing teams, if they were Texas schools, also were gorgeously attired. In 1991, it was the height of female football fashion.

The Texas-University of Oklahoma weekend is another big fashion event. I don’t mean among the unwashed masses that descend on Dallas streets every October…no. I’m talking about expensive hotel suites with large screen televisions and catered eats. I went to one of these parties while still in college. My then-boyfriend’s parents sent out engraved invitations to the 1986 Red River Shootout soiree, held at the Fairmont Hotel. Attire: high casual in team colors. No kidding, folks; that was printed on the invitation.

I can’t talk about football fashion without mentioning the enigmatic homecoming mum. My non-Texan friends continually ask, “What the heck is up with those gigantic homecoming mums?”

It’s a mystery, y’all, but I’ll try to shed some light.

Football homecoming mums are a Texas tradition, and I’ve heard that Oklahoma does it too. Essentially, the mums are flowers worn as a corsage to homecoming football games.

They have been around as long as I can remember and the mums represent the admiration a young woman inspires in people who know her. The size of the flower in the center of the mass of ribbons in school colors directly correlates to how much a fella loves his girl. The bigger the mum, the greater the love. The more mums a gal has, the more fellas who think she’s the cat’s pajamas. The center flower is a giant, white chrysanthemum usually made of silk and sprayed with glitter. Some mums sport teddy bears in the center. Usually, the ribbons have names and messages on them in glitter letters. The ribbons also have a dozen or so plastic and metal trinkets, especially mini-cowbells, interspersed among them. The result is a bizarre mass of flower and foof that looks like a cross between a parade float and a space ship.

Our 1983 Hawkins High School homecoming queen had so many mums on her, she looked like she was wearing Bjork’s swan dress from the 2001 Oscars. I’ve seen girls hunched over from the weight of their mums, trying to walk up the bleacher steps without tripping over the great gobs of ribbons trailing behind them.

Whether a gal receives a mum on homecoming from her beau determines whether the relationship will last. My first college boyfriend neglected to get me a homecoming mum and got dumped shortly thereafter. Y’all might think that’s shallow, but he and I had an understanding and he breached a sacred tradition of Texas coupledom by omitting this gesture. By not remembering me with that goofy flower, he pretty much said, “I don’t love you and I don’t care if I hurt your feelings.”

I have never forgiven him, and twenty years later, we still do not speak to each other.

The female side of football is complicated. You’re better off not trying to understand it beyond the observance of ritual and symbolism.

If you’re a fella courting a Texas woman, be real sure you let her have plenty of time to get ready to go to the game (she’ll need about 2.5 hours for hair and makeup) and be real sure you don’t forget the flowers.

Your relationship depends on it.