There was another reason the name George held a particularly special place in my heart. My Grandad's name was George, and he embodied everything I could hope for in one of my children. Kindness, strength, love, faith, intelligence, self discipline, humor, devotion, perseverance, humility and simplicity (in all the best ways), and I (along with many others) just loved him. I don't smoke and I'm not a fan of clouds of nicotine, but the smell of cigarette smoke reminds me of him, and I can't hate it, no matter how hard I try. Smoking was his one bad habit...well, that and bourbon if you count cocktails as a bad habit (which I totally don't).
But there's another George that captured my heart....George Strait. I don't know why, either. I grew up in a small south Texas town, but it wasn't a farming community or anything. I'm not a cowgirl. I didn't ever own a pair of cowboy boots until this year! That being said, the first dance I learned was the 2-step, and the first music I learned to love was country music.
My grandparents (all 4, including grandad George!) lived in a small town in the panhandle of Texas called Borger. It was an 11 hour drive from my hometown to there, more if we stopped. We went without fail every summer I was growing up, and along the way I'd see this great state of Texas in all its lovely forms. From coastal planes, to the pine trees of east texas, to the dusty panhandle, and as I admired the beautiful scenery that was my home state, country music would serenade us through the tape deck.
George was special though...being from Texas, his music somehow sounded more like 'home' that any of the other artists. I would stay with my aunt a lot in the summer growing up, and when his songs would come on the radio, she'd say..."Shhh! It's George!" :) And one of my favorite memories of my baby brother is when he suddenly started singing along to the chorus of "If You're Thinking You Want A Stranger (There's One Coming Home)". My brother was tiny at the time, but it just proved how many times we'd all heard those songs.
George became immortalized in my heart, though, when my dad was driving back and forth to see his mom before she passed away. Borger was a little bitty town, so when Grandma was in the hospital, it was in the near-by city of Amarillo. Dad would leave Friday after work and drive all night to get to Amarillo by Saturday morning to be with Grandma over the weekend before heading home. He did this at least 5 or 6 times before she passed away. And every time I hear the fiddle solo that opens for the George Strait song "Amarillo by morning" I can't help but picture my dad on those empty roads and the sun coming up over the lonely Texas Panhandle plains as he drove to say, 'goodbye' to his mom.
After Grandma passed away, we didn't go to Borger as often anymore. Grandad would travel to see us. But, about that time Dad took me to see George at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. We had gone to the Rodeo several times before...once a year almost, and I had seen tons of people sing, but George was incredible. He connected with the crowd in a way I'd never experience before, and where most people rode a convertible out of the arena waving to the crowd, he hopped off the stage onto a horse and trotted around the arena. He was a true Texas cowboy riding away and he embodied everything gracious and kind and simple I loved about my home state and my Dad and my Grandad, and to this day, his music instantly takes me back to my childhood.
George doesn't tour very often, and about a year ago I had mentioned to Stephen that seeing him in concert one last time before he retired was on my bucket list. About a week after I made that statement, George announce his farewell tour. The timing could not have been worse, though. I was pregnant with our third child, due smack dab in the middle of his first leg through Texas. We tried 3 or 4 times to make it happen, but it just wasn't possible. I had all but given up, when Christmas rolled around this year. I was looking through a stack of cards from family when I came across an envelope with my name written in big bubble letters across the front. I assumed it was from my little sister, but when I opened it, this is what I saw:
I was shocked! I couldn't believe my amazing husband, Stephen, got me tickets to see my George!!!!!!! We're going to his Baton Rouge show, and I CAN. NOT. WAIT!! And at some point during that concert - probably when he sings "Amarillo by Morning" or "The Cowboy Rides Away" or both - I'm going to cry. It's going to happen. I'm going to cry big ol' buckets for the summer memories that are getting dusty as I get older, for my Grandad who I miss every day, for the love I have for my Daddy and what George means to him, and for the loss of a simpler time. I'll get nostalgic and melancholy, and then I'll look at my husband who will grin from ear to ear, and the corners of his eyes will crinkle with the sweet wrinkles of age that I adore. And I will think of our three incredible babies...none named George, but who are part of his legacy. I'll be reminded that the past was incredible, but the present is pretty amazing, and the future is full of possibilities.
George is my past. Stephen is my present, and together with Carter, Jack and Grace, they are my future. So here's to George, and one last farewell!!