By Andi Risk

Waco.

This town means something different to everyone. To out-of-staters, Waco may mean Magnolia Market. To a college student, Waco means Baylor University. But to my mom, Waco means home.

As a senior in high school, neither my mom nor I could’ve guessed that I would end up getting my degree in the same town that was her old stomping ground.

I mean, really What are the odds? Waco isn’t Los Angeles or New York, yet people are ceaselessly falling in love with this quaint little town. And I do have to admit, I think I might be one of them.

Although I love Baylor University, and I can’t pass up a fresh cupcake from Magnolia, my love for this town has much deeper roots. I have had the pleasure of exploring the same places my mom did when she was my age a new generation of the same traditions.

Waco has held some of my mom’s most important life moments, and now it gets to hold mine too.

Throughout the years, Waco has grown and changed in more ways than one. Even though my mom and I are able to bond over steady traditions like the Heart O’ Texas Fair & Rodeo, there are many other parts of this town that have not stayed exactly the same. My mom tells stories of the Waco she knew like the back of her hand, and I am both perplexed and amused by the pictures I draw in my head.

Valley Mills, which now seems to be at its peak with the inclusion of H-E-B, used to be the “drag.” Yes, that’s right. Valley Mills was the Friday night hot spot. My mom and her friends would drive up and down the street hoping to pass another acquaintance, so they could pull over and chat in the parking lot. That was pretty much the pinnacle of the drive. But hey, what else were you supposed to do without a cell phone? Honestly, I am impressed by the creativity.

Before she could drive, my mom would ride her bike all the way down Fish Pond Road to the Ridgewood Country Club. To many college students, the country club is a place for receptions or Greek formal events, but to my mom, the country club was the place to be when you were a 10-year-old hanging out by the pool and peeking over the gate to see which friends might be joining. I recalled many of my mom’s stories from Ridgewood as I stepped through the doors for my own formal last spring.

If you wanted to go shopping, your best bet was a department store off of Bosque Avenue called Goldstein Miguel’s. This was the place to practice retail therapy and even grab a bite to eat in the food court known as the Piccadilly Cafeteria. Target now takes the place of this legendary store, and I suppose that’s for the best; however, according to my mom, Goldstein Miguel’s had the best record store in town. You could go and listen to all of the newest albums or 45’s. I wish I could’ve joined her for that.

If you wanted to go to a movie, you could head down to “the circle.” What seems to me like a terrifying double-laned roundabout, used to be the fastest route to the town’s drive-in. If you needed to get groceries, you could head on down to the Piggly Wiggly, which was the biggest grocery store in town. And if you wanted to attend a Baylor football game, you would find yourself at Floyd Casey stadium off Valley Mills.

After the football game, you could find some fine dining at the Brazos Landing, where my mom worked as a waitress in high school. There was a big dinner riverboat that was anchored right across from the Brazos Landing, and it would go on cruises every Friday and Saturday night. After our last football game, my mom and I sat in that same restaurant together, which is now known as Buzzard Billy’s and carries new memories for the both of us.

I see glimpses of my mom not only in myself, but in the corners of this town we both hold so near to our hearts. While our memories may be different, I am grateful to have experienced  some of my mom’s life in my own. Although many of my mom’s Waco adventures happened years ago, mine are just getting started. While college is a time to discover yourself your hopes, dreams and talents I am lucky to have the opportunity to discover those things about my confidant, role model and best friend my mom.