By Kristin Borg
I’m from Michigan, the north, where the air is so cold during the months of winter it hurts to breathe in. I have traveled mostly in the north to areas such as Jersey, Philly, Illinois and Indiana. I explored the U.P. (Also known as the Upper Peninsula of MI) and Wisconsin — and I enjoyed a youth filled with sledding and ice skating in the winter and swimming in all the various lakes in the summer. I learned not to eat yellow snow and not to go outside with wet hair because it would freeze. At times, it felt like the winters never ended and the summers were awesome, but oh-so short. I didn’t know how different life was going to get heading south, way south, when the Army gave us our first set of orders.
The anticipation of finding out our first duty station was nerve wracking. Where would we end up? My husband put in his preferences and I remember we put Ft. Bliss in El Paso, TX, as our last-choice duty station. And the Army sends us to… drumroll… Ft. Bliss! I was 23 and never experienced the south. I headed down to Texas with my puppy and a good friend in my Chevy Cavalier with three spinners (yes I put fake spinners on my car, and one flew off),. The year was 2004, so I traveled with the basics… a hand-held map with markings all over it, and some printed MapQuest directions. We were on our way to go see the land of cowboys and cows.
The minute I got to Texas, I called my husband and told him we’d be there soon. Well the joke was on me because that’s one large state. I ran over my first snake, got pulled over for the first time and got my first ticket by a state trooper (why was he so serious?), and encountered what I thought was the scene from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre on a tank of gas that was almost empty. It may have taken three days, (two of those days driving through Texas) but we made it to the gate at Ft. Bliss.
It was the very next day I met my neighbor, Kristi. She lived “kitty-corner” from me, but she liked to say I lived “catty-corner” from her. The very first sentence out of her mouth was “Hi, y’all, want some sweet tea?” I’m pretty sure I stared at her in complete shock. I’ve never heard such a southern drawl, or ever drank sweet tea. She had Texas flags all over her home and a southern charm that spewed from her. Woah, here it is folks, I’ve encountered my first Texan. Kristi introduced me to Southern comfort foods, country music and the significance of blue bonnets. I must have gained 15 pounds living next to her. I ate peach cobbler for the first time and learned about Blue Belle ice cream. She also started my addiction to sweet tea. I didn’t see it coming, but over time she grew on me, and I grew on her, and we became great friends.
As the months went by I grew fond of El Paso and the unique culture. There were stucco houses lined with rocks instead of grass. Not sure if any of you ever heard of a swamp cooler, but it sat on top of our house and made the house 10 degrees cooler than the outside air. If it was 110 degrees out it was 100 in your house… torture for a Michigander. I saw my first cockroach and scorpion, and I got used to being called “ma’am”. I met my first tumbleweed driving on the highway when the wind swept a huge ball right onto my bumper. I thought those only existed in cartoons. I got a little taste of home when it snowed one Christmas Eve. It was only two inches of snow, a light dusting, but enough to shut down the entire city.
After four years of living in the South, we received our next set of orders to Washington state. I had never been to the Pacific Northwest so I was going to learn a whole different unique culture. El Paso had won my heart. I got used to the bugs, southern words and the new foods I was trying. Texas sure was an eye-opening adventure and I’m glad we experienced it. My friend Kristi and I still continue (20 years later) arguing about how to say words “correctly”. We agree now that there’s no right way because “kitty-corner” and “Catty-corner” are actually both wrong because it’s originally “cater-corner”. Wait, who am I kidding?. She’s a Texan. She’s right… just something I learned on the way.
About Kristin Borg
Kristin is an Army wife of 18 years and the mom of a young son. Her family has two dogs and she likes to spend her time at dog parks and paddle boarding. You can follow her adventures with having a son on the spectrum on Facebook at Smiles for Miles.