The Same, Yet Different

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My partner and I recently visited Houston for the first time since we left Texas for Canada over two years ago.

When we left, I was five months pregnant and we were riding in our car packed to the gills with a dog, two cats and a bunch of clothes, ceramic vases, crystal from our wedding and anything else we didn’t trust the movers to handle. The farther north we drove, the colder the outside temperature grew until we were frozen solid upon arrival in Calgary. Frozen, but excited for new experiences and a new country and a new addition to our family on the way.

When we left Houston, we were tired of it. Too hot, too humid. Too many cars and too many cowboy hats and we were simply sick of it. So, it was funny on this visit back to realize just how much we missed it.

As we headed into downtown from the airport in our rental car, familiar graffiti greeted us. A stop at “our” grocery store and then, how could we pass up a margarita or two at our favorite Mexican restaurant? We’d been gone for two years, so of course, there were changes aplenty. A coffee shop we frequented was completely renovated, a few antique stores had closed. That favorite Mexican restaurant had moved a few blocks away, its former location razed to make way for high-rise apartments (a fact that had initially terrified us when arriving at that address, mouths watering for salsa, we found our restaurant had vanished.) A quick Google search put us in the right place, but for a few seconds, we were in anguish.

Houston was mostly the same, but it was different, too, as we had expected. Two years can do a lot to a big city. But more than anything, it was we who had changed the most. When we left the city, we were two, and on this visit, we were three. Our son loved the grass-filled parks and sunshine days. It was a relief to get him ready for a walk outside without two coats, gloves, a scarf and boots. He sat on the lawn and ran his hand over the grass for minutes on end, in awe of simply being outside. The old favorite places weren’t exactly as we remembered them, but were familiar enough that we felt welcomed. And though we know summer is a very different beast in Houston, we had forgotten how pleasant it was to be in a place that isn’t snowy and frigid for most of the year.

Old friends invited us to dinner, some of whom had welcomed children of their own since we left. And so, even though they were our same friends, they were different, too. We’d sort of “changed together,” though we had been a country apart.

Was this really the city we had been so eager to escape? Was this really such a terrible place to live? We visited the museum and were reminded how fabulous the visiting exhibits and permanent collection are. There were so many more parks than we remembered, so many more restaurants we hadn’t tried.

We left Houston two years ago hopeful of new experiences in Canada, not realizing there were so many opportunities in Houston we not yet explored. Perhaps it is as they say, that distance makes the heart grow fonder, or maybe it’s possible that being buried under an avalanche for two years in Canada might have something to do with our changed hearts. Either way, our visit to Houston ended with making an offer on a house and a plan to move back as soon as possible.

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