The author at age eight in front of her house in Houston. Courtesy photo.

Dear San Antonio,

A letter seems so trite considering all you’ve done for me over the past four years. Happy anniversary, by the way.

The first time we met, I was about seven. Similar to most folks meeting you for the first time, that trip consisted of three things: the Alamo, Sea World, and the Riverwalk. It was all I knew. Really, it was all that anyone in my world knew. Just a sleepy little town with a ton of history, right? And if a time traveler came to me when I was 18 and told me that I’d be pushing 30 and unable to imagine living anywhere else, well … I would’ve refused to believe they were talking about me.

You already know my biggest secret as a San Antonio transplant: I’m a Houston native. I wasn’t just born there – the city is a huge part of who I am. The home of Clutch City, the first multi-purpose domed sports stadium, my favorite bagel shop, the President Heads, miles upon miles of bayous, The Galleria, and the streets in which I drove around aimlessly as a high school senior, yearning for the future.

And in the summer of 2011, I said goodbye to my apartment, family, friends, contacts, mentors, and a city with three professional sports teams. That three hour drive west – one I had done hundreds of times before – was the scariest of my life.

But I guess I should back up.

In 2004 I went to college and met one of your native sons – in Tucson, Arizona, no less. I was amazed at how firmly his cowboy boots were planted in your soil. He and I weren’t meant to be at the time, but I never stopped wondering why it was he loved you so much. He insisted that he would research living elsewhere after he graduated, but everyone knew you’d lead him home. Almost a decade later, he’s still here – and those cowboy boots are rooted deeper than ever.

And thank goodness, because those boots led me to you. He and I reunited post-college and married in 2012. I have him to thank for our real introduction.

But this isn’t about him – it’s about you and me.

It’s about how within a year of moving here, I abandoned my Houston Rockets fandom to bleed Black and Silver, which my brothers will never forgive me for. I am a huge sports fan because of the Rockets teams of the mid ’90s: the Dream Shake and Clyde the Glyde and Rudy T’s “never underestimate the heart of champion.” But there is no franchise – in all of professional sports – like the San Antonio Spurs. There is no fan base who loves a team more. There is no city that shuts down when their team is playing in the NBA Finals quite like you do. A 9 a.m. meeting the morning after a Finals game? Forget about it. Spurs love is a contagious kind of love, and I caught the bug fast.

It’s about how you can always find a paleta cart.

It’s about how, for two weeks in April, we take to the streets to praise your awesomeness. Fiesta is about history and community and dressing up dogs for parades and celebrating all the things that make you great. Plus, getting to hang my Fiesta wreath on my front door is becoming one of my favorite pastimes.

The author and her dog Duncan, circa 2015, in front of their house in San Antonio. Courtesy photo.
The author and her dog Duncan, circa 2015, in front of their house in San Antonio. Courtesy photo.

It’s about the stretch of 281 North between Hildebrand Avenue and Basse Road where all you can see is tree tops and blue sky.

It’s about Penner’s men’s store on Commerce Street, where generations upon generations of guayabera lovers have been shopping for almost 100 years.

It’s about how your nonprofit organizations collaborate better than those of any city in the country. It’s about how generous your companies are (from the big boys to the little guys) in supporting those organizations. It’s about how lucky I am that I’ve gotten to see both sides of this equation.

It’s about the San Antonio Regional Golden Gloves Boxing Tournament that takes place in the heart of the Westside – an event that is more beloved by a community than any I’ve ever been a part of.

It’s about how the Riverwalk down by La Gloria is one of the most peaceful places I’ve ever been.
(And it’s about how I could write a novel to the Pearl, but that’s for another day.)

It’s about how sitting on the bench in front of City Hall on a breezy day makes me forget about everything on my to-do list, if only for a few minutes.

It’s about how I can be at the original Rudy’s from anywhere in about 30 minutes. (There’s always something about “the original,” isn’t there?)

It’s about your exploding culinary scene and the restaurants that have become my staples (Cured, Bohanan’s, Earl Abel’s, Vietnam Gardens, Thousand Oaks Cafe, and Hsiu Yu, to name a few). And it’s about how I can get to a Whataburger pretty much instantly when I’m craving chicken fingers, no matter if I’m out at La Cantera or participating in the MLK Day Parade.

It’s about how my future children will grow up in a place where the color of their skin, the religion they practice, and the person whom they fall in love with are all irrelevant.

Perhaps most importantly, it’s about the friends I’ve made, the people I’ve worked with, the places I’ve been lucky to work, and the mentors – both personal and professional – I’ve gained. All of these people don’t just feel like home…they are home.

And we met because we had one thing in common: you.

I’ve stopped wondering why my husband has always loved you as much as he does. It’s because there are no strangers here. It’s because no one in the world loves a city more than someone who lives here loves you. That’s a lot of love – and every ounce of it is warranted.

I’m proud to be from Houston. But you’re my home now. And I can’t think of a better compliment than that.

Viva,

Lauren

*Featured/top image: The author and her dog Duncan, circa 2015, in front of their house in San Antonio. Courtesy photo. 

Related Stories:

Where I Live: Monte Vista, The Center of New History

Urban Encounters: Downtown Grandma’s Life Above an Alley

Home Again in San Antonio

San Antonio: A City on the Rise

Lauren Mandel

Lauren Mandel is the Media and Communications Specialist for Generations Federal Credit Union. A self proclaimed political junkie and fantasy football connoisseur, she enjoys spending time with family...