SHAE’S GREAT AUSTIN ADVENTURE PART TWO

Helpful terms and definitions:

The Texas Railroad Commission (RRC) – a commission founded in 1891 by the Texas legislature to protect consumers from the railroad companies that were over-charging farmers and other customers. In 1917, because the Commission regulated the mass transit industries of the time, the Commission asserted its jurisdiction over pipelines. As a result, the Railroad Commission began regulating the oil and gas industry since they had the closest ties to the industry via pipelines. For more info, go to http://www.rrc.state.tx.us/

Pledge of Allegiance to the Texas State Flag – “Honor the Texas flag; I pledge allegiance to thee, Texas, one and indivisible.” For more info about Texas State Emblems, see http://www.texaspolicecentral.com/texaspat.html

Politician Magnet – any baby under 2 years old.

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1:15 p.m. Jene’ and I enter the Senate Chambers. The Senate Chambers is usually off limits. Today, however, it has been opened to those invited to the swearing in ceremony. It’s a cool feeling when you stroll into the Senate Chambers and groups behind you are trying to get in thinking that just anybody can do what we just did. They are referred to the Senate Gallery on the floor above us while we are told we can actually go beyond the ropes and sit in chairs normally reserved for senators. How cool is that?

I meet Victor’s parents, Bernardo and Alicia Carrillo. Bernardo and Alicia came from Mexico when they were kids. Neither of them passed the third grade, as they had to go to work to help support their families. They are much older than you would expect, as Victor was born when they were in their late 30’s. Bernardo looks like his chest is going to explode with pride, while Alicia’s smile lights up the room. They sacrificed so much to see their son be able to live the American dream.

I sit down with Julia, Jene’s youngest sister, who is my age. Julia has three kids: Benjamin, who is 9 and is so smart, he sometimes sprains my brain as I try to keep up with his questions – for example, how the lights in the Senate Chambers were made – and his explanations – this time about static electricity. Damaris is almost 2. She is a long, lean blonde toddler who has the prettiest blue eyes. She is sitting on Julia’s lap while Jene’, who is standing behind me, holds Julia’s youngest, Grant. Grant is almost four weeks old and is content and quiet during the ceremony.

Victor enters the Senate Chambers with Texas Governor Rick Perry and Lt. Governor David Dewhurst. As I snap a picture or two, I notice that my camera has reached 23 pictures. Noticing the TV camera behind my head, I start to feel an overwhelming sense of dread as I figure out what to do, because I know my camera will rewind after the next picture. I decide to try to time the last picture during applause.

Jene’s dad, Jasper, is called upon to pray to open the ceremony. Jene’s dad is a pastor and is known for his, well, lengthy prayers. Julia leans over and says, “Do they know what they’re getting into?” and I laughed and said, “Did they give him a time limit?” Later, Victor teases Jasper that the governor leaned over during the middle of the prayer and said something like, “He is aware, isn’t he, that he’s supposed to be finished by now?” “Gotcha!” moment.

After the prayer, Christina leads the crowd in the pledge of the American flag and then the Texas flag. I asked her later if she knew the Texas pledge and she said, “No,” but that she had memorized it expressly for this ceremony. I also asked her if she was nervous, and in true Christina fashion, in three very quick sentences, said yes.

Laura rose to sing the national anthem a capella. Any singer will tell you, no matter what, this is a not a song for the faint of heart to attempt, let alone attempt it a capella. Laura knocked it out of the park. I haven’t seen that many grandparents or family members swell up with that much pride in a long, long time. The crowd was very impressed as well and I try to take advantage of the noise and snap another picture. My camera reads 25 and does not rewind.

The Lt. Governor, David Dewhurst, is introduced. I snap a picture and the camera begins to rewind. The applause does not last as long as I’d like it to and as he’s saying that he liked the anthem so much and that he needs Laura to help him campaign, my camera begins its noisy and lengthy rewind.

Julia has already left the room with Damaris, who just couldn’t sit still or keep quiet that long and I don’t know too many toddlers who would last as long as she did. So, I’m sitting there alone with a TV camera behind my head and my camera is rewinding. Thankfully, the acoustics in the room were such that I don’t think that many people actually heard me. Jene’ was behind me next to the TV camera and she didn’t hear it. Crisis averted.

Next, the governor gets up and tells us how wonderful Victor is. He talks about his daughters, Laura, Christina, and then he fumbles around for his notes, because he forgets about Grace. Grace is over playing on the floor all the way across the chambers, so I did not hear this, but Joy said that as the governor fumbled around for her name, Grace piped up, “And Gracie, too!”

Victor is finally introduced and he begins his speech. He talks about his humble beginnings, his degrees (I can’t remember them all, but they include geology, geophysics and law), and then he talks about his wife of 18 years, Joy. Victor tears up, as he often does, because Victor is just really sensitive and caring and most people who know him would be surprised if he didn’t wipe his eyes at least once during such an important milestone in his life. Victor made it through that and then talked about his parents. He introduced his family, the parents, the in-laws, the other two RRC’s, Michael Williams (who wears cool bow ties) and Charles Matthews, and his new staff.

Then Victor is sworn in, he exits the platform and the reception begins. As we wait in line to get through the door to the reception area, Jene’, who is still holding Grant the politician magnet, is approached first by Michael Williams who wants to know if Grant can vote yet. Then, the Governor and Lt. Governor make their way by to look at the politician magnet. Grant, still content and quiet, meets the governor. (By the way, Grant has yet to meet his Daddy, Jeff, who is deployed somewhere in the Persian Gulf – please pray for him!).

At the reception, the Senate photographer keeps taking pictures of Jene’ and Grant. Jene’ finally asks the photographer who she’s with, and she tells Jene’ these pics will go into the archives and we are all a part of Texas history now. Grant, before he’s a month old, is now a part of Texas history. I know he won’t remember this, but his brother told me that Grant is fortunate to see the capitol and experienced all this so early, and that, at 9 years old, he felt as if that was a bit late to get started getting involved in being a part of Texas history.

Grace was not enjoying the reception, and was coaxed by Jene’ to go “do stairs,” to keep her occupied. After three trips up and down three flights of stairs, Jene’ was done in and Grace seemed satisfied. They came back just in time for the family parade over to Victor’s new office. I had just been handed the politician magnet, but all the politicians were gone by this time. When I got outside, my eyes began to water from all the pollen flying through the warm spring air. After a few blocks, I couldn’t see, so reluctantly, I handed over the baby to his mother. I figured he would be safer with someone who could actually see the traffic as they crossed the street. So much for quality time with the little guy who actually got to meet the governor.

Victor’s office is just down the plaza from the capitol building. We went up to the 12th floor (the top floor) to the RRC suite of offices. Victor’s office is bigger than, well, my whole apartment. It has a great view of the capitol building and the rest of Austin. The bathroom is almost bigger than my bedroom. Christina excitedly showed me all of the features, the TV with cable and VCR being one of the highlights for her. Then there were the elephants in the bathroom (elephants, Republicans, get it?).

Joy brings in the lamps for Victor’s office. She unpacks them and puts the styrofoam packing on the floor. Grace’s eyes light up as she drags one of the pieces that is larger than she is over to the TV area. She begins to tear it apart and styrofoam balls go flying everywhere. Damaris, who sees the “snow” action, decides to join in. Soon, there was quite a mess on the floor, and I’m sure the custodial staff loves Victor now. Grace had little styrofoam balls caught in her curly hair, which were stuck there, as Benjamin explained, by static electricity.

Soon, it is time to go, so we say our goodbyes, and head to Chuy’s our favorite TexMex place (we have two in Houston as well) and eat lunch/dinner. It’s 5 p.m. and we are ready to get on the road. After a quick stop to take my picture in a field of bluebonnets and a short field trip to Wal-Mart in Bastrop, we get home around 9:30, ready to go to BED. I feel compelled to tell you that Jene’ had parking angels at both Chuy’s and Wal-Mart.

As tired as I still am, I wouldn’t have missed this day for anything. It’s not every day you get an opportunity like this. And, in November 2004, I’ll get to vote for Victor. How often do you get the opportunity to vote for a politician who lives out his faith, and is a person of integrity who actually wants to work hard? I wish y’all lived here so you could vote for him, and if you knew him, you’d wish that, too.

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