The Curative Taco

Who knew that Kroger’s at 4:00 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon is a freaking combat zone? Shouldn’t all those pushy/oblivious/rude people be home watching football? Did they not see us carefully staying to our side of the aisle and could they not do the same, instead of stopping dead center while sending text messages? And what was up in veggieland? Do they not restock the shelves? Is there a run on green onions I should know about?

Such were my self-involved, first-world thoughts yesterday. No one seemed friendly except the poor, harried clerks who are instructed to be so. It was easy to fall into, “They’re not as friendly as Texans!”

One of my Facebook friends posted a photo of a taco truck,  a successful new venture for someone she knows, and I pitifully commented that she needs to drive that thing to South Carolina, pronto, as I’m dying of taco deficiency. Yes, this is a serious medical condition.

But last night and more clearly this morning I put my finger on it: I’m homesick, but not for California, for Texas, my home of just over twenty years.

tacos the perfect food
Tacos: the perfect food.

I wasn’t a healthy enough human when I left California to recognize and process homesickness. Instead, it manifested in entirely, ridiculously unfair and frankly obnoxious comparisons between the two states.

The ocean, the beaches, the lazy, nasal drawling beach-speak of my youth will always have claim on my heart but Texas, as I’ve written before, burrowed into my heart without my knowledge or, truth be told, my permission. I miss the well-marked streets, the madness of the campus and all my “frequent fliers” – the kids who get into too much trouble and thus, became fixtures in my office (they’re the same ones who will hug you when they see you need one, by the way).  And I’m fruitlessly searching every street corner for a taco place. In Southern California, we’re basically weened on salsa and Mexican food, so tacos are pure comfort. Texas took that comfort and said, “Here, let’s wrap that in bacon and grill it over mesquite. Don’t you feel better now?”

“This too shall pass… like kidney stones….” I hear  Jeff calling to me from heaven, and a friendship made in Texas. I also know his next line would be, “It’s character-building and you’ll be a better person for it.” After he’d stopped snickering and had dodged my swing, he’d pointedly tell me, “You can get down off the cross – the job has been filled,” then gently remind me through the simple words of beloved St. Julian of Norwich, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” And as always, he would be right.

But I let myself shed a tear or two anyway, if only for the stunning lack of tacos here, and the horrifying discovery that Campbell’s makes “mild salsa,” apparently from whatever was scraped off the tomato soup processing plant floor. Some things can’t be unseen, and must be mourned.

Fortunately, I know the cure: open my heart to all the possibilities inherent in the phrase, “shrimp & grits,” schlep more boxes to the new house, and make it a warm and welcoming place not just for Paul and me, but for the friends as yet unmet, the family to visit, and in which the comfort of tacos and salsa are offered to all comers.

I wonder where I can get some mesquite?

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