I’m 67. I have lived 26 of those years in San Antonio, where my wife and I currently reside.
From the spring semester of second grade through my freshman year in college, I lived with my mother and sister in Lockhart, Texas, a small Central Texas town of about 6,000 residents during the period I was there. Next month I will attend my 50th high school reunion in Lockhart. I’m a Lion forever, and I have worn—and bled—a lot of maroon.
I’ve since made Texas residential stops in San Marcos, Austin, Temple, Brownsville, McAllen, Harlingen, Corpus Christi/Port Aransas and Beaumont, and have also lived and worked in Tucson and St. Louis.
But I had a very moving experience last night that confirmed what I’ve always really known.
I’m from Houston. Through and through.
Jo and I watched “Apollo 10 ½: A Space Age Childhood” last night. And, in a very real and wonderful way, we each saw ourself. And we liked it. And we liked ourselves. And we felt good about our childhoods, something that has not always been the case for either of us.
Apollo 10 ½ is a brilliant animated film by Richard Linklater. Like Jo and me, Linklater was born in Houston. Like me, his parents separated when he was seven. I moved to Lockhart. Linklater moved to Huntsville.
Houston never left my soul. And clearly it never left Linklater’s soul, either.
A quick synopsis. Apollo 10 ½ is about a fourth-grade boy and his siblings growing up in Houston near NASA during the space race. Know this. During that period, Houston was the most dynamic, happening place on Earth, period. Nothing was impossible. Everything was expected, and everything and more was delivered. Houston won every bet, every time.
The film advances on two tracks. There is the documentation of the actual Apollo 11 landing, but it is preceded by the kid’s own fantasy of walking on the moon.
But in each of the story lines, Apollo 10 ½ screams Houston in inspired and accurate animation. Yeah, that’s JFK at Rice Stadium. Yeah, that’s the Astrodome and Astro World. Yeah, those are mutant mosquitoes and sonic booms and bayous and Little League baseball fields and relative humidities of at least 123 percent.
Yeah, that’s my early childhood. And, yes, Jo, that’s yours, too.
Fun fact to know and tell. Jo and I were born eight days apart at Hermann Hospital in Houston. Yes, I am her elder.
We did not meet until 19 years later during our sophomore year at Southwest Texas State University. We met because as I was walking off an intramural football field on a glorious fall Thursday midnight-blue evening in 1973, I saw this brunette rocket in blue jeans and a green top standing near our sideline and decided to make a pest of myself.
And, wouldn’t you know it, we wound up married 39 years later.
Houston never left my soul, and in fact always continued to nurture my soul. Jo’s relationship with her hometown has been much more complex, and not always happy.
But I saw my Houston Girl’s smile last night. She knows who she is. And I know who I am.
This was liberating. I felt no angst or sadness watching Apollo 10 ½. I felt only joy. And pride. Deep, deep pride.
Never forget that the first word spoken from the surface of the moon was, “Houston.”