By Rachel Fish
I’m a Michigan native and grew up in a small town playing hide-and-go-seek in cornfields and walking down dirt roads late at night drinking Boone’s Farm.
I am not a girl of “favorites”—I don’t have a favorite color or favorite movie, nor a favorite song or food. The places I have lived (like my sweet home town) are not stored and filed in my head by the best restaurants or stores. They are threaded with the people that have woven sweet and silly memories in my heart.
For the first time in my life, I am living without much of a plan and with open hands. It’s actually how I wound up in Waco: with the flip of coin. Heads for Charleston, tails for Waco. My wild heart didn’t have a preference for either, just a stirring to get moving and go.
I was asked to write about my favorite places in Waco. I love when people guess, “I bet it’s Magnolia—their cupcakes, right? Or, actually, Homestead Heritage is amazing, and don’t forget about Common Grounds.”
I just smile (mainly because all those are so true and all have to do with food) but for me, it’s never been about the places. It’s about the people and the memories made together that have made Waco what it is.
“For me, it’s never been about the places. It’s about the people and the memories made together that have made Waco what it is.”
Jess Connolly, co-writer of “Wild and Free,” says she tries to tell people the “real truth.” Not the brutally honest truth that consists of a little bit of truth and whole lot of brutal—but rooted truth.
She’s talking about telling people that they are “better than they think…more kind, more wise, more forgiving than they could imagine.” I think of my sweet friends here, and I want to do the same. I want to explain how and why their characteristics make them so much more than any place or establishment.
So much greatness lies within each of these people who have loved me and all my grit and mess, my Northern bluntness and accent (long a’s, friends), my awkwardness and my awesomeness.
So, here’s a stitched vignette of each of them. I hope you like them as much as I do.
Meet Alex Tyra. Talk about someone who is “more-than” in every characteristic they hold. This girl is more beautiful, more equipped, more smart, and more humble than anyone I have ever met.
Before we actually met, people kept confusing the two of us. I walked up to her and said, “Hi, I’m Rachel, the girl that you keep getting confused with. Would you want to be my friend and get coffee sometime?”
We’ve been besties ever since. We recently spent a night bringing up the mess and heartbreak of our lives; we bought three bottles of wine, cookie dough, hummus and crackers, and sat up all night laughing, showing each other the cracks in our hearts.
I told her about my life from the time I was twelve and had my first drink to my most recent breakup, and all the baggage from my past. She sat and just listened. And then did the same, unpacking her own bags for me to see. Lord knew what He was doing bringing this girl into my life.
Meet Sydnee. When Sydnee and I met, we felt like saying, “Where have you been?”
We recently had Galentine’s Day together and walked around HEB in sweats, talking about marriage and our future husbands and kids. We bought chocolate chips and Vanilla Blue Bell ice cream, eating half of the chocolate chips on the drive back to her house.
We made chocolate chip cookies as we talked about our hearts on this rainy Valentine’s night. She always asks the question, “How is your heart?” and has a knack for opening up the small corners inside that I’ve barely been myself. The heartaches, the dreams and desires, the details I have never said aloud—she knows them.
We ended up painting watercolor flowers and butterflies that night and divulging the numerous dreams we have—even the ones we don’t know how to put into words. I watch Sydnee pour into children each week as an Elementary Pastor and work hard to preserve the innocence that is left in them before this world snatches it.
She is more sweet, more funny, more creative, and more courageous. She is more bold, more gentle, and more caring. She and I are going to conquer big dreams, so stay tuned.
Meet Alex Wolf. I am eternally grateful for Alex. When I moved to Waco, I got a job I hated and randomly connected with her through mutual friends. She’s an incredible photographer and she has single-handedly helped me launch my own photography career.
I met with her at Pinewood in hopes she would agree to take me on as a project. After a few hours of talking and shelling out what that would look like, I quit my job the next day.
She pulled my deep-rooted dream of photography up from the fear and anxiety that had held it hostage for years and made it seem so freaking real. The best part of it is that she isn’t just a mentor but truly one of my closest friends here in Waco.
My hands-down favorite memory with her is a day we spent in Austin for an engagement shoot she let me tag along for. Before her clients came to meet us, we explored and came across a street poet. He had a typewriter and was crafting poems of any topic, on the spot, for free.
She told him about the non-profit organization in Honduras she had just begun, and he wrote a poem titled, “The Work that We Do.” My favorite line says:
“I do not know why I was born for this, in life, some things simply are. Let no man take what already is, by the sweat of my brow, from the breaking of our hearts we will find a way to aid the truth. Fear nothing, for here we come, simply moving in the work that we do.”
She had been filled with anxiety about her future trip to Honduras and the hundreds of reasons she didn’t think she was equipped to go, and I am so sure this was God giving her affirmation in such a sweet way. It revealed to me that she is more selfless, more loving, more grateful, and more diligent than she realizes.
Meet Richard. Richard is my brother-in-law’s best friend and has become such a good friend to me in a short amount of time. He is more obedient, more generous, more loyal, and more honest.
He’s incredibly smart and works for an IT Department but has some hidden creativity within him. I constantly pressure him into grabbing a pen and paper and to just write.
He has a wandering heart for adventure, similar to me, and we’ve already crafted ideas of some businesses and road trips we’ll someday tackle. He always asks questions that are so simple on the surface, but they knock on the cellar doors of my hidden thoughts. He makes me step back and truly question my own desires and reveal opinions that are usually stored and saved for myself.
A couple weeks ago for my birthday, we played a game of odds that would end in either a tattoo or piercing for us both. Needless to say, a couple hours and birthday drinks later, I would be first up for a silver hoop, and he would come right after. He wore it for about three days and still has a tiny scar. He’s constantly spurring on my adventurous heart, and I’m confident he’ll be doing it for years to come.
Meet Scott and Kellianne. More loving, more admirable, more hospitable, more faithful. With a new dream in my heart, I dragged these two throughout Cameron Park a couple weeks after I moved here and made them dance, kiss, and fake laugh for two hours while I snapped close to 600 portraits.
They were my first portrait session and first investors in my little dream, and I couldn’t cherish this moment more. They are a core part of my community, and I’m so incredibly inspired by their relationship. I love how sweet they are to one another and how selflessly they serve one another.
I also love how loyal they are to our game nights, which wouldn’t happen without them. Kellianne is competitive and truly gives the best edge to Catch Phrase and charades.
Scott is less-than-thrilled to participate in games such as charades, but he’s a fair game commissioner. I’m convinced he’s the main reason we haven’t gotten into fights or severed relationships during these games (because all our games end with consequences).
They are faithful friends, and they make Waco feel like home.
Meet Sam, James, and Malachi. It seems unfair including family in this, but I wouldn’t be in Waco without them. So naturally, they make the list.
Sam is my sister, and we haven’t lived in the same time zone since I was twelve; she and my brother-in-law have lived in Waco for five years and opened up their home for me and my other sister (coming next) to crash and figure out adulthood.
One of my first weeks in Waco, I was really caught up in the post-graduate “What am I doing with my life?” moments and came home bawling my eyes out. I had so much fear, worry, anxiety, and I just didn’t know where to begin.
That night, Sam called up rooted truths in me and was the first person to encourage me to pursue photography. She shined a light on ugly lies that were strangling me. It was one of the best nights I’ve had here because it was a radically life-altering moment. Sam is more kind, more generous, more transparent, and more loving.
James: more wise, more gracious, more patient, more selfless—and Lord bless him, because this man grew up with one brother and now lives with three grown women who are sisters.
He has sat up all night to listen to each heartbreak, mediate every argument, and provide chocolate and ice cream for us when we need it. He offers wisdom in singleness, dating, and most recently, bitcoin investments.
Just a few weeks ago, James snuck into my room and woke me up on Valentine’s Day. He had his son Malachi in one arm and roses and a chocolate bar in the other. If you’ve ever met him, I’m confident he made you feel special and became an instant friend because that’s who he is.
And I can’t forget about Malachi—this little man holds my heart. End of story.
Meet Jordan. I would be remiss not to talk about this girl. Remember that coin flipping I was talking about? I did it with her.
She’s the real reason I am in Waco, and I would follow her across the world if she asked. It’s one thing to have a best friend, another to have a sister, but it’s rare to have someone that is both.
We went from living on different continents to sleeping in the same bed, and for the first week here, we could barely sleep because we’d stay up all night giggling. I could go anywhere with her and would have the time of my life; we always say we have “too much fun.”
Over the summer, before we really knew anyone, we explored West Fest together. I sweet-talked our way into getting free tickets, and we tried kolaches for the first time and polka danced with strangers in the Texas heat. Walking back to the car that night, I fell into a ditch. We were both laughing so hard—the kind of laughing where no noise is coming out. She didn’t help me up either.
Jordan always lets me go a little too far, usually just laughing at me in all my wildness. She lets me make mistakes, and I’ve always appreciated it because I make so many. She is more comforting, more equipped, more honoring, and just more cool.
While living a life without much of a plan, I’ve invited moments like these to happen, spontaneous and without structure, full of flavor, wildness, and love.
I have absolutely nothing figured out, and I’m just trying to keep things real. This is my life and this is as real as it gets. Nothing really makes sense, but I’m here living it and letting it ebb and flow.
We all have our people and smile thinking of the memories that come up every now and then—you know the ones. Memories that months or even years later can still make you laugh, brought to life through a song, a smell, a taste.
They are important, and your people are more than any place ever could be.
So, who are your favorites? How are they more? Take time today rounding them up and call out their rooted truths, love them with open hands, and start making them more than the place.