I Don't Hate It | Uvalde, Texas, My ❤️
summer (camp), the slow heat of someone else's house
I grew up going to summer camp on the beach, in South Texas. It was the kind of place I now know to call “sleepaway camp,” a parent-free haven where I was let loose with my peers for a week—eventually two weeks—finally able to explore the world away from the prying eyes of adults. I should say: Lord of the Flies this was not—it was a Presbyterian summer camp, with a camp director and a music leader and kitchen staff and counselors (who were five or six years older, at best). And probably a pastor. It only seemed like there was a lack of supervision. But it’s where I learned to love the beach. It’s where I met at least two of my first boyfriends—boys with whom I would exchange letters and mixtapes (can you even remember?!) well into the fall and winter, hoping to see them again the next summer. And it’s where I met a girl named Marie, who was from Uvalde, Texas.
She and I became fast friends, as often happens at summer camp. We, too, wrote each other letters after camp ended, and we talked on the phone, and we convinced our parents to let us visit each other. Uvalde is about an hour and a half from San Antonio, and typically our parents would each drive 45 minutes and meet somewhere in the middle, on Hwy 90—Hondo, maybe—so that one of us could go with the other’s family for a few days. I spent a lot of time in Uvalde in the nineties.
San Antonio has 1.5 million people—2.5 million in the metro area. In 1990, the city’s population was about 1.2 million. At that same time, Uvalde had a population of just under fifteen thousand. It is roughly the same today, with the surrounding county adding about ten thousand. The census bureau defines it as a city, but for a kid from San Antonio, it was a small town. I can still remember the layout of Marie’s parents’ house, the cold Saltillo tiles on the floor of the vast living and dining rooms, the route into and out of town.
I kept visiting my friend, for years after we stopped going to church camp on the beach, after we stopped going to church altogether. I met and became friends with her friends, with her boyfriend. Eventually we drove ourselves down those Texas highways, and one year she drove herself to college and the next year so did I. So we visited each other at our respective colleges, and I visited her back at home in Uvalde in the summer.
Because Del Rio was so close, and crossing the border into Mexico for dinner and then back into the States after was so much simpler in the nineties, it was a regular occurrence. That is not how I learned to drink margaritas (ask my mother and my aunt for that story sometime 😉) but it is how I learned to appreciate them. And it’s one reason I won’t mess around with anything frozen.
Summers were slower in Uvalde, somehow. It was always hot. I loved it there. The slow heat of someone else’s house is always preferable to your own.
I don’t have to tell you what the peg is for this missive. You already know.
Marie and her high school boyfriend got married. I was in their wedding. And they were both in mine. We were friends for a long, long time. Even after they had two kids, and I had moved to Austin, and gotten divorced, and our lives had gone in very different directions, we stayed in touch. Until we didn’t.
Uvalde will always have a piece of my heart. It was part of how I came to love highway drives, windows down, sunroof open, music blaring. And aimless drives through town, just to get out of the house and see what’s happening. Along with SA, it—and Ciudad Acuña—was where I first had truly delicious Mexican food. It was also where I learned to shoot a gun.
Here is how to help victims of the Uvalde school shooting. There is a hub on GoFundMe for those who want to donate money. If you’re in Texas, there is a blood drive (specifically in SA). Attorneys licensed in Texas are also needed.
And finally, a well-researched and -reported (award-winning, in fact) reminder that More Guns Do Not Stop More Crimes, Evidence Shows.