Last June at the Worthington ballroom they gave us the news.
My employer announced they would be moving most of their Fort Worth operations to Houston. Until then this had all been a hint of a rumor.
But that June day we saw a slide show and a video that shot us past the safety of a possibility to the scary uncertainty of the actual. For most of us in the room, this was a day that would have massive impact on our careers, our families, our extended families and, truly, the rest of our lives.
Houston has 3-hour traffic jams, sky-darkening mosquitoes and unwelcome guests like Ike and Rita and Harvey. This is what we know about Houston.
But… it is Texas.
And couldn’t you go to the beach on the weekends? And weren’t there some tall trees down there? That would be nice. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. All those millions of people living in one place couldn’t be totally wrong … right?
Perhaps, hopefully, maybe, I could get used to Houston. But, there was something else that began to sink in shortly after the announcement. I knew I had a bigger problem than Houston. It was Fort Worth. It wasn’t where we were going, but what we were leaving.
“Foat Wuth, ah luv yew!” — I remember the brown cowboy-inspired font across many a bumper sticker driving around town in early and mid-1980s.
It might have seemed strange for someone to choose those words as their one message to the world. But now that I have to leave this town, I understand. And I feel it. If I could somehow go back to 1985, I would walk up to the driver-side window of one of those proud Fort Worthians, point right at them, point at their bumper sticker, fight back a tear and give them a slow, solemn nod of solidarity.
Yes, my brother. Yes, my sister. “Ah too, luv Foat Wuth.”
I identify as a Fort Worthian, proudly and forever.
Brick streets, Joe T’s, Farrington Field, Burger’s Lake, Camp Carter, Bluebonnet Circle, Galligaskins, Southcliff, Westcliff, Trinity Park, mini-trains, light parades, trumpeting angels, fighting frogs, purple Panthers, singing waiters, rambling steers, and the trailer on Seminary Drive in the abandoned grocery store parking lot where I used to buy quesadillas. These are a few of the things I’ll take with me in my heart and mind when we load up the moving van and drive down I-45. In the case of the quesadillas, hopefully it will also be in my hand and cooler.
But, I won’t be taking my mom and dad and brother and Grandma. They are going to hold down the Fort for a while. So, that makes it harder. Because truly, they are what makes Fort Worth home.
All those trips to the Omni, the Amon Carter, the Trinity, the Japanese Gardens, the Y, the Zoo, the Stockshow, the parades, and on and on, first for me then for my kids, have built up in me a fierce allegiance to Cowtown. My parents’ excitement about this town was a gift that I made my own. But, to be fair, I know that they would have passed on their love and compassion for people even if we had to grow up somewhere else (with the possible exception of Dallas). But happily, it all happened here in Fort Worth. I wish we didn’t have to leave, but mom and dad’s next gift is one of an easy excuse to come back, again and again.
So, Houston, here we come. You are getting a few thousand Fort Worthians with high expectations.
I know I can speak for most of them when I say we will give you our best efforts. We will be kind, we will get involved, we will spend money, and as soon as the dust settles we will look around to see what needs doing to make things great. Please understand, though, that we are going to carry Cowtown with us, and so forgive us if every once in a while we cast a wistful eye to the north, let out a deep sigh, and exhale a “Foat Wuth, ah (still) luv yew” under our breaths.
Josh Gilliam is a Fort Worth resident whose job is requiring him to move to Houston.