Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Family Travels

There is no red brick in Austin. I had not anticipated that. I am not horribly well travelled, but the big cities that I have seen the most of--Indy, St. Louis, Chicago, Kansas City, all have lots of red brick, at least in the older sections of their downtowns. Austin is a city of stone. Cheap, scraggly, poorly maintained homes and ancient gas stations are clad in beautiful tan, gray, and gold stonework of the type that, here, costs mega bucks. New homes around here have tiny accents--a corner, the arch over a doorway--down there, it's everywhere.

My younger sister, 3 of 5 for you Star Trek fans, graduated last weekend from UT. I am ashamed to admit that in the 10 or so years that she has lived there, this was my first visit. I have many excuses for that, none of them good, two of them under 38 inches tall. Regardless, we came for graduation. The flights were rough, the driving was confusing, and the visit far too short, but we had a good time. Besides my little family, my mom and the rest of my sisters all came as well.

We arrived late Thursday night, and met up with my sister on Friday. We hung out most of Friday afternoon at a dive called Freddie's. The weather was perfect--mid 70's and breezy, and Freddies had a huge outdoor patio area with a swing set! Heaven with french fries! The adults could talk, and my kids (and my baby sis, age 12) could play. After our 3-hour lunch, we went back to the hotel and our kids napped, and then we went swimming. The pool was outdoors, which I had not anticipated. I do too much travelling in the upper midwest. A quick dash to a local Target netted us sunscreen, an innertube for Char, and some Dove chocolates for me. We had a late dinner at a local Tex-Mex place.

Saturday morning was the graduation ceremony. At my alma mater, Wash U, the ceremonies were divided by school--Arts & Sciences, Engineering, Art, etc. UT further divided things by major. My sister's ceremony was as large as the entire Wash U ArtSci graduation, and only covered Biology and Chemistry majors. Did I mention that she was Magna Cum Laude? And that she's headed for grad school next year (after a summer doing research in Panama)? She puts me to shame :) Her path to her degree was a very non-traditional one, and that makes her success all the more deserved in my book.

My sister opted to not attend the school-wide commencement that evening, much to my daughter's disappointment. Char heard the announcement about fireworks. Instead, we drove to a BBQ place called The Salt Lick south of town. They were offering a streamlined menu in honor of graduation crowds, but I didn't feel slighted. In a huge rustic screened porch, we ate ribs, brisket, sausage, turkey, baked beans, fresh baked bread, potato salad, and cole slaw family style, all-you-can-eat. We had to get our blackberry and peach cobbler to go.

Back at my sister's house, we sat around and talked for hours. Char declined the opportunity for a private tour of a local firestation, courtesy of my sis's firefighter live-in-boyfriend. The kids enjoyed chasing the cats and the dog, and using Jenga game pieces as stacking blocks. They were also showered with attention from their grandma and various aunts. It was a good weekend all around.

I'm pretty sure that Trystan called my sister by name at one point, and maintained a couple-minute conversation with her--none of us have any idea what he was saying, but he was very sincere. If I had to guess, I think he was saying "Congratulations! We love you!"

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