By Claire Ronner
The trip to San Antonio to see the Alamo is a rite of passage for every Texas schoolkid. Although my sister and I are Hoosiers by birth, we were not exempt from that tradition.
My mother, her sister, and her three brothers grew up in Beeville, about a two-hour drive southeast of San Antonio. Half of them still live there, along with my grandma and other extended family members. Despite growing up in various places along the East Coast, Dad ended up 30 minutes southwest of Beeville in George West working as a construction engineer after he graduated from Virginia Tech. He met Mom while she was working at my grandparents’ store one day, and they later tied the knot in the church Mom had attended all her life.
When my parents moved away from Texas two years later, I think Mom vowed to personally tutor her children in Texas history. That meant every trip we made to Texas, even if it was spring break or summer vacation, incorporated some educational aspect. We toured the Berclair Mansion, not far from Beeville; explored the Bob Bullock Texas History Museum in Austin; admired marine life at the Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi; and watched the ice cream-making process at the Blue Bell factory in Brenham.
En route to Beeville one spring break, we detoured through San Antonio to spend the day. It was March 2003—I was in sixth grade, my sister in fourth. As the family bookworm, I went through phases of obsession with different historical eras growing up. Conveniently, I was fascinated then with Texas independence and had just pored over all the books on the topic that I could get my hands on. We started our day with the main event: a visit to the Alamo.
As we wandered through the Shrine of Texas Liberty, the overall size of the mission surprised Dad and me. We’d expected a huge fortress, like in the movies we’d seen, but this was an intimate space with small rooms. Mom and Dad remember discussing with us the valiant efforts of William B. Travis and Davy Crockett to protect the mission, Santa Anna’s violent assault, and Sam Houston’s subsequent victory at San Jacinto. I remember the Alamo being quiet and walking from room to room in relative silence.
Shortly afterwards, we traded the tranquility of the storied mission for the bustling atmosphere of the River Walk, soaking in the colors of the umbrellas over restaurants’ tables and the tile mosaics on the walls and smelling the faint trace of chlorine from the water in the river. We ate lunch at one of the many Mexican restaurants along the River Walk. My memories of the meal are vague, save for the too-spicy salsa and the salty, delicious chips.
Our boat tour along the River Walk with an energetic, knowledgeable guide fascinated my parents and me, but my sister was a little too young to enjoy all the San Antonio trivia and dozed off at some point.
“At the time, I didn’t understand what the purpose of our trip was,” my sister says, laughing. “I just didn’t get it.”
The rest of the day is a blur in my memory, but Dad remembers that we walked around HemisFair Park and enjoyed the drastically warmer Texas weather compared to the snow we’d left behind in Indiana.
All of these memories and strong Texas ties led me to Austin this spring for my internship with Texas Highways. With an aunt, uncle, and two cousins in town, I’m always over at their house visiting, eating, or doing laundry. I was around to witness my aunt attempting to get my 10-year-old cousin excited about his upcoming San Antonio trip with his fourth-grade class. Like many 10-year-olds, though, he wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of spending all day in museums and old buildings. When he returned and half-heartedly recounted his day, I smiled to myself, knowing that just like the Texans who preceded him, my cousin will always remember the Alamo.
See full article in the May 2012 issue.
From the June 2012 issue.