It’s a bittersweet kind of day in the quaint little town of Salado, Texas. All things growth and progress related are bringing the end to an era, the closing of doors. Somehow I just don’t think that place will ever be quite the same.
When we were kids our parents were divorced. My sisters and I moved with our mom to Houston. Our dad remarried and lived in Salado. Once my sister had a teacher who told her there was no way we could be going to Salado for Springbreak, because she swore it was an African Village. It was a village alright, but it was smack dab in the middle of Central Texas. It didn’t help us prove our case much that Salado wasn’t always on road maps back then, but it’s a historical little place known for the Stagecoach Inn, the Bed N Breakfasts, and the Main Street shopping. Thank goodness for Google Earth. Sure wish I could remember that teacher’s name, I’d Facebook her a few greetings from Salado!
Salado was the opposite of Houston. It was little, nicely spread out, beautiful, clean, quaint- nothing like the big city we were trying so hard to survive! My favorite place was the creek, where we could float down it on inner-tubes or swim in the freshwater spring by the mermaid. And we could walk all over town, and charge things! Yes, the grocery store would let us have food just by signing our names. I’m sure my dad really appreciated that when the bill arrived! Being there meant simplicity, tranquility, and sunshine. So I guess that’s why I fell in love with the place. Plus, as every child of divorce knows, going to Dad’s for the summer is like going to Disneyland! It just is. It wouldn’t matter if Mom’s WAS Disneyland, kids of divorce know, vacation at Dad’s is the way to go! That’s where the grass is greener.
Along with a step-mom I was blessed with a few new sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, and a brand new Grandpa! I’m of the ideology that a kid can never have too many grandpa’s. Grandpa’s are magic tricks and ice cream cones, extra hugs, and a dollar when you didn’t even ask for one! My new grandpa was something special.
He had spent years as a basketball coach, so all the locals knew him. Even though his days of coaching were over, he still watched all the games, and supported all the kids. He was so loved by them that they named the high school gym and a basketball tournament after him!
When I was little I remember him owning Dairy Queen and Texaco (among other things). They were luckily situated on I-35, right there on the highway. Business bustled, but I wasn’t paying attention to that. I loved it that we’d get inner-tubes from Texaco, spend the day floating down the creek, come back and have ice cream at Dairy Queen. Do you know how cool you are when you’re the kid who can walk in Dairy Queen and get a free ice cream?
Blending our family wasn’t always easy. There were moments when I felt like a stranger in my father’s house, like I was on the outside looking in. I would see my step-sisters as these girls who were living the life I was supposed to have. But before I could get lost in the heartache of it, this wonderful family became my family too, and there was nothing better than being a part of it in this little town where my grandpa was Coach, and everyone loved him!
Oddly it was my step-mom who put an end to the angry feelings I had about my parents divorce. After years of wondering how it ended up that way, looking for someone to blame it on, she gave me the peace I so desperately needed. She told me “you know, they just had too much passion and they were too young for that. So when it was good, it was good, and when it was bad… well…. ” I guess it wasn’t anyone’s fault.
I’d heard my dad blame my mom and my mom blame my dad, but of all people, it was my step-mom who helped me let it go. And that’s the gift she has given to me the most, the ability to let things go. To move on, to let it all roll off my back, cherish the good, forget the bad, never hold a grudge, and always look for the silver linings.
I guess all things happen for a reason. My mom and my dad have made me who I am, but also, my step-mom and my step-dad are part of me too. And I’m lucky to have learned the lessons I have learned from all of them. I try to take the best, and leave the rest, and I hope it shows in the kind of mom I am. As a kid, I had some really good memories, sitting on the beach, floating down a creek, playing baseball in the front yard, or hide and go seek after dark putting fireflies in a jar. Those are the things I keep, that I hope to pass on.
And the bad times, well they taught me to work hard and get through them, to do everything I can to hold my family together, that every single person that comes into our lives has a purpose, and that nothing lasts forever.
My grandpa died several years ago. I was lucky to have known him. I miss the way he used to laugh. He was always so upbeat. He’d help anyone. He took care of his family, and gave to everyone he could give to. So many people worked for him over the years, they got their starts in the world flipping burgers at Dairy Queen. I never worked at Dairy Queen, but he did let me have a Sno Cone Stand one summer in the parking lot. My sis and I made a fortune (I think it was a whopping $200), but I loved wearing my roller skates more than the cash!
Coach lived a really good life. He passed his goal of seeing his kids grow up, then he passed the goal of seeing his grand-kids grow up and he had great grand-kids who adored him. Still, it was a shock when a heart attack snuck up on him. His departure from this world left a void and Dairy Queen was never quite the same without Coach Smith to stop in and check on things. And neither is our family. But life goes on…
There’s always been construction going on down I-35 between Dallas and Austin. Now, the expansion is taking up the land where Dairy Queen sits. And today, well, today the doors will close forever. It’s kind of ironic that the same highway that once brought prosperity to my grandpa is now taking it back. I guess it’s true, what goes up, must go down, and it all circles back around.
But lucky me, my children had more than a few years where they got to walk into Dairy Queen and get some free ice cream! They got to be cool and sign their names for a hamburger (charged to MeMaw)! I’m gonna miss that place, but truth is, it had already changed, like everything else, nothing ever remains the same and now it”s time for the next chapter to begin… We didn’t really need all those Blizzards anyway!