Monday, January 11, 2010

Remember the Alamo!

(WARNING: get comfortable. This is a long one!)

"Remember the Alamo!" That's a phrase I heard over and over, growing up in Texas. My household bleeds Lone Star. I'm a fifth-generation Texan, after all!

At the beginning of the school year, we learned that Daughter's marching band had been invited to the Alamo Bowl, to participate in the halftime show with other high school bands from across the country. They've been raising money for this all semester and counting the days! It's a big adventure for a small-town high school band.

My surgery threw a kink in our initial planning. I wanted to go as a chaperone, but my surgery would keep me from living up to those expectations. Moving very slow, not able to lift anything heavier than a milk jug, needing extra rest....yeah, that just wasn't going to work.

And I had to go. My ex announced he would go to San Antonio to see Daughter during this trip. Saved him the expense and effort of coming to Colorado. I wasn't about to have him and his lovely (NOT) wife hovering around without keeping an eye on things.

So, I had to be there, but traveling would be difficult. I mean...I can't drive, bend, lift, twist, push, or pull. I needed help. We talked about it and Ranger would also go, to help me. The suggestion actually came from Daughter, initially. She really loves Ranger and loves being around him. She was worried about me traveling and hurting myself. She also worried about me spending so much time alone. Her itinerary was pretty tight, with rehearsals and clinics and visiting with her dad. Her free time was pretty well soaked up.

On a hunch, I asked her, "So, this trip. Am I right that you're thinking of it as a school trip with your buddies? And not time with Mommy?"

She smiled sheepishly and said, "Uhm...yeah. That's pretty well it. Is that okay?" She was worried about hurting my feelings.

"Perfectly fine, baby girl," I said. "I remember high school. I want you to have a great time there. I'll be around whenever you want, though. Just holler." She wanted me nearby when she first met with her dad and stepmom, though.

As the trip got closer, my ex started making noise about "his" visitation. I reminded him that this was primarily a school trip, and she'd have to adhere to their itinerary and rules. After all, the school was not paying for her to have visitation with her father. He argued that he was a "special case" and should be an exception to the rules.

I warned the band director about this. Good thing. He got some lovely emails from my ex. The director spelled out Daughter's "free" time. On Friday afternoon, they would go to the mall, the Alamo, and take a riverboat cruise. He was free to join them, but could not take her away from the group. The kids had to stay in groups of three or more. On Saturday afternoon, she would have free time at the hotel for three hours. Again, he could visit her at the hotel, but not remove her from the group.

I mean, look at it from the director's perspective. Who is this guy to him? Is he the kind of ex who would take off with her and not come back? He has rules and must stick to them, for a reason.

Oh, but not to my ex. Remember, he's the exception to every rule. He had a fit and a half. He kept trying to get me to pull strings to get him into the closed rehearsals. Again, these rehearsals were closed by Alamodome security, for obvious reasons. But even they should have made an exception for him.

And me pull strings? There aren't any to pull. These are rules made by The Powers That Be. I'm just a mommy.

I bought Daughter her own set of luggage. Nothing fancy, but sturdy enough to get her through high school trips for the next four years. It's bright purple. She's in love with it.

Our flight was chartered from Grand Junction to San Antonio. We left at 11:00 PM on Tuesday, December 29th, amid a fresh dumping of snow in the Grand Valley. I was so thankful for Ranger. Every time I turned around, there was something I wasn't allowed to do. He watched out and took care of me, every step of the way.

We arrived in San Antonio in the wee hours of Wednesday. We stayed at a different hotel than the band. I picked a hotel close to Daughter's activities. Something central. So, Ranger and I checked into the Marriott Riverwalk at nearly 4:00 AM. On the twentieth floor, with a balcony overlooking the Riverwalk. We'd be able to see New Year's fireworks from that balcony, too. The room was beautiful and comfortable. The setting was perfect for us to rest and relax, rediscover each other, and do a little healing.

I bought some very sexy lingerie, too. I'd put it in a bag, closed it up, and had Ranger pack it in his suitcase. I didn't want all the nosey people in my house getting into it. When we got to San Antonio, he confessed that he hadn't been able to resist peeking in the bag. He was completely blown away by what he saw.

"You bought that just for me?" he asked. He'd noticed the items still had tags on them.

"Yes," I said. "With just you in mind."

He started to tear up. "No one has ever done that for me before," he said. "No one has 'dressed' for just me, with what I like in mind." It meant more to him than I could have imagined. In his mind, he's never been "special" to anyone. Until now.

He also teared up because he realized that he was indeed very special to me, and he had taken that for granted and hurt me. He reiterated that he wanted to spend the rest of his life showing me how special I am to him, and proving that no one could ever come between us again.

The pic here is the view from my room, overlooking the Riverwalk. It was just lovely! Newly-remodeled Marriott rooms have cushy beds and bedding, big soft chairs, and media centers, where you can plug all kinds of media into the TV. With that in mind, we brought lots of movies and TV shows we have in digital format, to watch together. See, with us, the romantic times are when we're out together, or when we're making love, or when we're just cuddled up watching TV. It's the big moments and little ones that matter, all together. I find joy in the most mundane moments, though.

Besides, although I was up for some physical activity, I still needed lots of downtime. I mean, for pity sake, I wasn't even allow to drive yet.

And Ranger planned on taking care of me in all respects. We showered together that night and slipped into the comfortable bed to sleep. No really. We slept. We were exhausted from a long day and night.

We got up and around late that morning and went to the hotel restaurant, which served breakfast all day. There, Ranger discovered something new: real chorizo. It dawned on him that we were now deep in the heart of Texas, among authentic Mexican culture and, more importantly, Mexican food. He spent the rest of the trip pursuing great chorizo, like he'd never have it again!

We wandered over to Daughter's band rehearsal at a nearby high school field. We got out of the way when they started serving lunch to the kids. She'd text me in a little while to let me know what they were doing that afternoon. Ranger and I went to Market Square, where I did a little souvenir shopping for the folks back home. Just can't beat the prices there! The text came from Daughter, who turned out to be in the same market as us. We met up with her little group and shopped. She got this great Baja hoodie in her school colors, for $10. Too cool!

I saw the band director and said, "I understand you've had some lovely emails with my ex."

He rolled his eyes and laughed, "Oh yeah!"

I reassured him that Daughter and I were on the same page he was. She understood the rules and the reason for them. She was committed to sticking to them. He thanked me for that, saying it was a relief that at least we understood where he was coming from.

My ex called me later, to see if I'd pulled those strings yet. I explained that there weren't any to pull. Again.

"Well, we're coming in Friday," he said. "I'd like to see their band competition and the rehearsals."

This irked me because he had a copy of her itinerary. "Uhm, that's a problem," I said. "Her competition is Thursday and the rehearsals are closed. Still."

He wasn't happy with me, but what else is new?

I'd run out of energy, so we made our way back to the hotel for a nap. Ranger and I cuddled up close and snoozed. It was delightful. Pure bliss.

Later in the afternoon, we went to something I haven't been to since college -- a pep rally. Texas Tech and Michigan State had a shared pep rally on the river, by the Rivercenter Mall. I warned Ranger of something.

"Texas Tech fans are obnoxious," I said. He nodded. "No," I said. "Really. Mark my words." I told him about the more recent "tradition" of drying out tortillas to throw during football games. The fans at the pep rally didn't let me down.

I pointed out Raider Red, the mascot with an uncanny resemblance to Yosemite Sam. See what I mean in the pic to the right (and no, I don't know anyone in that picture)? Cheerleaders everywhere. During Tech's "turn" to rally, the fans were exceptionally loud. The Michigan State fans looked a little taken aback. Welcome to Texas football.

The bands floated to the rally on riverboats, with the teams in boats behind them. As the Michigan State players floated by, Tech fans pointed and shouted things like "You're going down, bubba!" When the Tech players went by, Tech fans cheered....and Michigan State fans were politely quite. Oh boy.

Ranger was beginning to understand what I meant. Here's the video.

That night, we wandered across the street to the other Marriott, to a place called Sazo's. It sucked. Big time. The food was horrible. The atmosphere ruined by employees dumping our silverware trays, then heading to the bar to party with each other. I'm not one to be very silent on this, so I made my opinions known. Luckily, the manager was receptive and handled it nicely.

The next day was New Year's Eve. We started to see more crowds. We saw more red-and-black clothes and more green-and-white clothes. The football fans were arriving. We took a riverboat tour along the Riverwalk. Those are interesting during the day, and romantic at night. We planned on taking the romantic route that evening, when we headed out to celebrate the New Year.

Daughter would be attending a New Year's dinner and dance for all the bands participating in the Alamo Bowl show. It was closed to all non-chaperone adults, so I saw her at her competition that day. We hugged and wished Happy New Year. She was having a ball, and I was so glad to see that! She's just grown so independent, so fast. ((sigh))

We picked our New Year's dinner carefully. See, there's this chain of barbecue restaurants in Texas, and they are near and dear to my heart. My uncle worked for them when they started up and brought with him some family recipes. These recipes were from my great-grandparents, who came to this country in the early 1900s and settled in Detroit, where they met. By the time it was all said and done, they owned a chain of 18 bakeries there. My uncle brought their recipes for homemade bread and potato salad to the restaurant.

When he left, the chain tried to keep him from taking the recipes with him. He won the court battle, but they also retained the recipes. They use them to this day.

One of these restaurants was in Lubbock, but closed to all but catering business. Imagine my delight to find one on the Riverwalk! I could hardly wait to share this with Ranger, who you know is as much of a foodie as I am. To be able to taste my great-grandparents' cooking, decades after they've gone from this world....well, that's pretty dang special.

I dressed in an outfit I'd picked just for that night. Enough sex appeal to keep Ranger wishing we were back at the hotel, but not enough to be skanky. Skanky just isn't me. So, we wandered to the river and flagged down a water taxi. He explained that it was a long route to where we wanted to be, but we didn't mind. We paid the $5 fare, and settled into seats on the bench.

It was a perfect moment. One that has become a place of serenity for me, when chaos surrounds me. The breeze on the water was nippy, so I leaned back into Ranger's chest. He put his arms around me, holding me close. Soft kisses on my cheek, as we drifted under tree branches dripping with Chrismas lights.

People on the shore shouted "Happy New Year!" and we waved back. Some shouted "Guns Up!" -- the Texas Tech battle call. I made my obligatory "guns up" sign back, as a good alum should, and Ranger laughed. He never went to a college with a football team, let alone in Texas, so the Public Displays of School Spirit were cracking him up.

We docked at the restaurant and made our way to the host stand, to be addd to the list. Then, we found seats at the bar while we waited. Ranger hovered over me, acting as my buffer from a jostling crowd. He was my protector that night, but when he looked at me, his eyes almost filled with tears. "You're so beautiful tonight," he kept saying. He absently stroked my hair, which was falling in soft curls from the humidity.

Dinner was delightful. Good, old-fashioned Texas barbecue, with my great-grandparents' bread and potato salad, and cool sweet tea. Perfection. Neither of us could finish our plates. I took a picture of Ranger at the point of giving up, uploading it to my Facebook page. His daughter commented immediately that she "liked" it. (A sidenote here: she loves me....she actually listed me as "mother" on her little family tree on Facebook.)

We did a little shopping next door at the Hard Rock Cafe shop. Daughter has souvenir drumsticks from each Hard Rock location I've visited, so I couldn't skip this sidetrip!

We caught the water taxi again, and enjoyed the ride back to the hotel. The water lulled us a little with our full tummies and cozy warmth. We strolled back up to the hotel, up to the 20th floor, where we put out the Do Not Disturb sign and shed clothing along the path to the bed.

As per our request, the hotel had delivered an iced bottle of sparkling wine and chocolate-dipped strawberries. We were too full to break into that, though. We nestled into the big soft bed and watched "Six Feet Under," until the fullness could subside. We lost track of time. I became aware of a ruckus outside the hotel.

"What is all that?"

Ranger looked at the clock. "Three minutes to midnight!" Quickly, we cracked open the bubbly, poured two glasses, grabbed our robes, and stepped out on the balcony.

This video is rough, but it's what we saw that night. I've never seen anything quite like it! The horizon filled with the blossoming of fireworks, all around the city. The traffic below stopped. Cars honked. People yelled. We heard music from the carnival nearby. Simply, amazing!

Click here to go to the YouTube video of what I saw from my hotel balcony. Like I said, it's rough, but you get the idea!

We kissed. We sipped our wine. "This will be our year," Ranger said. "I promise. I will make you believe in everything again, I swear. You are my world. You are my everything."

"Just me?" I asked. "I'm enough for you?"

"More than enough," he said. "I promise you. Always, and in all ways." His eyes were earnest, almost piercing in how he looked at me. There was a desperation there, too, searching for signs that I believed him.

"I need to feel that again," I said. "I think we're starting to mend it. But it can't be broken ever again." He nodded. He understood what I was telling him.

We watched the flash of the fireworks at the Tower of the Americas. Simply stunning. I got a "Happy New Year, Mom! I love you!" text from Daughter, and said goodnight to her. 2010 was officially underway.

We lazed about on New Year's Day. We made love and ate a late breakfast. Daughter was going to text me when they left their hotel, so we could meet her and her friends for lunch at the mall. The text came, and we headed out. I spotted Daughter in the outdoor part of the food court. As I walked through the door, I noticed my weeble-shaped ex-husband standing beside her. His younger daughter was with him.

Okay, so here's Petty Laugh #1 for the day: he's been telling me that he weighs near 300 pounds, "But it's all muscle because I work out." See him just then, I can tell you weebles do not have 300 pounds of muscle.

I opened the door. One of Daughter's friends looked up at me, and hollered, "Mommy!" Ranger laughed. Weeble frowned. He does that a lot. I said hello and hugged Daughter. I said hello to Weeble and his little daughter. I introduced Ranger. We talked with Daughter about their plans for the afternoon. They were going to the Alamo and taking a riverboat cruise. We were all welcome to come along.

Here's Petty Laugh #2 for the day: a blobby woman appeared by Weeble's side. I wondered why this stranger had no respect for personal space, then realized it was his wife. Looks like the universe has a sick sense of humor, and all the weight I've lost has appeared on the woman who is so mean to my child. Gotta love that.

She was preoccupied with two things. The pigeons perched overhead and Ranger. She looked him up and down, almost to the point of being rude. However, my ex was doing the same thing to me. As I spoke, he never made eye contact. His gaze wandered up and down my side, making me very uncomfortable. Thankfully, it was time to meet the rest of the band group for the Alamo tour, so we al took off for the meeting spot. Weeble's wife decided to stay behind and shop.

I've been to the Alamo many times. Ranger never has. Daughter's friends never had. I loved watching her be the "expert" on this part of Texas history. I lagged behind, to give her time with her dad. He hadn't seen her in a year and a half, so I gave them space to visit all they wanted.

Ranger soaked up all the history. He loved the displays of archeological finds from the Alamo grounds. He studied all the dioramas. It was fun to watch him. Sometimes, I looked up, and fund he was watching me, though. That was nice.

When we gathered the troops again, I told Daughter that we'd been on the riverboat cruise, so I'd let her have the time with her dad. She was happy with that, kissing me on the cheek before bounding off with her friends. We'd meet again for dinner, when the group went to Fuddrucker's.

But her dad didn't go with her. He stayed behind. He had complained about not having enough time with her, yet he was skipping a big part of it. His daughter chatted with me while he took a phone call. It was his wife. She was quite upset.

Guess why? Oh, this is too good. High-five to the universe.

A pigeon pooped on her.

Petty Laugh #3 is the biggest one yet.

He went off for awhile on one of his political rants, regurgitated from Rush Limbaugh. Then, he took off to go help his wife buy a new, poop-free shirt.

We saw them again at the restaurant. They'd finished their dinner before Daughter got there and decided not to wait for her. Ranger and I waited, and she was happy to see us. She's learned that her dad sometimes doesn't follow through on promises, so she let his absence roll off her back. However, Petty Laugh #3 made her day.

The next day was Game Day. The kids went back to their hotel for some much-needed rest. Ranger and I had another blissfully quiet evening, with pretty lingerie and soft touches, and lots of passion.

Passion that was sometimes interrupted by Texas Tech Red Raider fans. All night, from the riverwalk 20 stories below, we heard choruses of "RAI-DER!" answered with a matching chorus of "POW-ER!" All night. "RAI-DER! POW-ER!" I had to laugh. Ranger was dumbfounded.

I knew I wouldn't see Daughter on game day. We texted a lot. I'd see her through the lense of my camera, as she marched on the field. Could I be more proud? No way. I was about to burst as it was.

Daughter had three hours of free time at her hotel that afternoon. Her dad had claimed the time to visit with her. I agreed to just stay out of the way.

About an hour into that free time, my ex calls me to ask my son's t-shirt size. "Where are you?" I said.

"At the alumni stuff Tech set up," he said.

The alumni stuff was next door to my hotel. A long way from where Daughter was having her free time.

"Aren't you supposed to be visiting Daughter?" I asked.

"Oh yeah," he said. "I'll go over there in a bit."

Okay, so he kicked and screamed about having time with her. When he gets it, he's not there. How disappointing, but how typical. I checked on Daughter. She was fine. She's learned about her dad too well.

Ranger and I rode the shuttle bus to the game. We were the first fans on. Next stop, a few more red-and-black fans. Next stop, three green-and-white fans. Then, we pulled up to a loaded bus stop.

"Better like your seats," the driver said. "We're about to load this bus."

He looked at the waiting crowd. A sea of red. "You folks wearing green, good luck." We laughed.

When game time arrived, I was getting goosebumps. I'd forgotten the fever-pitch of a Red Raider game. Raider Red strutting the field, his guns loaded up with charges, like mini-cannons. Saddle Tramps lined up to greet the entering team. (Saddle Tramps are a fraternity, dressed in red shirts, black jeans, and toting cow bells with long wooden handles). And my favorite -- the Masked Rider (seen to the right), dressed as a matador in black and red, on her black horse. At home games, they have a track around the field that the horse gallops around, when touchdowns are made.

The BOOM of Raider Red's guns goes off. The Masked Rider holds the reins in her teeth, puts her hands up in the "guns up" sign, and lets the adrenaline-pumped horse loose. She gallops across the field, cape streaming behind, as the football players take the field. Saddle Tramps' bells fill the air and the Goin' Band from Raider Land blasts into the fight song, the crowd on its feet, singing along. Guns up.

Here's a little video I took. Disclaimer: I was having focus issues with the camera AND I was in the nosebleed section. Also, you'll notice the players making a somber march to the opposite end of the field. This is so they can take a knee and have a prayer. Yes, Texas Tech is in the Bible Belt!

And yet another video, if you click here. It's the Saddle Tramps in action, doing their traditional routine with their bells before kick-off. The crowd goes nuts for this. I have to say, the sense of tradition at Texas Tech is very strong, and something that comes with a lot of pride.

I get goosebumps. Ranger was kinda blown away by it, too. That, and all the tortillas flying onto the field. Nope, dear, I wasn't kidding!

The only thing that marred the experience was the behavior of the Tech fans during halftime. I never figured out what they were booing at, but it was associated with the controversy happening over the firing of Coach Mike Leach that week. And it happened in the middle of Daughter's time on the field. All those high school kids, performing their hearts out, and the Tech fans start booing at something else in the middle of it. And this one guy was in front of us with his protest sign waving around in the center of my home video of the performance. Great, guys. Good job. Sometimes, being obnoxious is funny. Sometimes, it's not.

I didn't last all the way through the game. Just after halftime, we headed back to the hotel. A small crowd was in the bar area, watching the game. Ranger settled me into a comfy seat there, and we watched the Red Raiders win the Alamo Bowl.

And guess what we heard all night?


Daughter spent her day packing, going to the zoo, and going to Six Flags.

Our flight left the next night, at 11:00 PM. The hotel gave me the latest checkout time possible, so we left behind our comfy little love nest at 5:00 and found a good dinner for our last evening in San Antonio. At 9:00, we met the group at the airport, got checked in, and started the journey home.

At the airport, I spotted Daughter, holding a stuffed zebra and wearing a pink Supergirl cape. What a kid.

Ranger and I were quiet. We'd had five days of bliss, away from all the cares and worries back home. We had reveled in each other's company, and in being oh-so-proud of Daughter.

I had new, pleasant memories of San Antonio. I needed them. Before, it was still the place where I'd had my honeymoon. Bittersweet. New memories made the place sweet again.

Some wounds are healing. Not healed, but getting there. There's still words that I have to force myself to not think about, or it just reopens things. I'm still working at it a little at a time, and he is, too.


Little T said...

It sounds like you had a great trip and a fantastic time of reconnecting! Where are the game pictures? I've never seen a real-live Texas football game myself;-)

Blogget Jones said...

I'll add some game pics! So, check back in a little bit and they'll be added. Great idea!

Texas football a religion to some folks. It's an entity unto itself. Good and bad. Something to behold!