From the beginning of my memory, I have never had a typical mom. Never has she dyed her peppered hair, hid behind layers of make-up, and don’t even try to coax her into a pair of heels. Not only does she seem oblivious to societal pressures, she outwardly defies them, intentionally purchasing clothes for comfort and not fashion, prioritizing her pack of dogs over making or maintaining friendships, my mother prides herself in her unique and individualistic look on life. She is also incredibly opinionated, stubborn, and almost painfully spontaneous.
I was not surprised the Wednesday when she texted me that two days later, Friday, just her and I would be flying to Austin, Texas for the weekend.
Checking into the first hotel available on such short notice (my mother’s spontaneity had finally caught up to her) my stomach began grumbling and we set off on a quest I will never forget. Having landed on the final day of the epitome of Austin, the huge South by Southwest music festival, just a five minute walk down the famous heart of the city, sixth street, we had reached a food paradise I can only relive in my dreams. Dozens of food trucks lining the perimeter of a seemingly abandoned lot. The aroma of freshly fried doughnuts, sautéing organic brussel sprouts, and “mexasian” fusion had me salivating. We tasted and gorged until we couldn’t manage another bite, finishing our meal with Gourdough’s homemade Black Out doughnut.
The next day, we were attracted to the weekly Saturday morning farmers market where we learned about bee pollen products and my mom restocked her aromatherapy arsenal. At the end of the long row of venders stood a tent filled with tie-dye shirts inhabited by a tall bearded man. Drawn by the psychedelic patterns of the clothing, I tuned in to hear my mother conversing about this man’s fear of technology and its potential to take over the world. This is Austin: strangers meeting in a tie-dye shirt booth discussing the “imminent destruction of the human race via technology”. Purchasing several shirts as souvenirs, we hurried into the city to tour the capital and shop on the famous sixth street.
The capital building had interesting stories of history and politics, with traditional architecture which stood out in the modern, vibrant city. Stopping in shops of art and souvenirs, each person we met had a big personality, yet welcomed us with pleasure. It was our last night and it was time to see the bats.
I finally understood why this weekend pulled my mother toward this kooky city. It was near the end of bat season. We had the honor to see one of the last nights that herds of people crowd on either side of Williamson Creek at sundown, staring, not at the beautiful sunset, but at the South Congress Bridge. The never ending chirping and squeaking of the migratory bats swells into a cacophony and finally takes off. Nearly one million bats emerge from under the bridge and flock together in one of the last feeding frenzies before they return home to Mexico for the winter. This is why my mother came to Austin. She has found her haven, and I am proud to say that the food-loving, bat sanctuary that Austin has become has opened my eyes to a unique culture and world that I cannot wait to revisit. Like the bats, my mother’s oddities find temporary shelter in this welcoming city where uniqueness is encouraged and “weird” is not so uncommon.
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