Monday, April 02, 2012

Orange Blossom Ghosts

The house is old. Sturdy. Bermuda plantation shutters made from real slabs of wood. Driftwood siding painted in glossy, bright yellow to match the floral pattern on the rattan outdoor chaise. The once dark, solid wood paneling in the living room has been painted crisp white. The kitchen, updated with white particleboard cabinets and filled with chunky pottery, has a glass top range and fridge filled with beer. And formula. There's a small pile of powdery, white sand starting to collect by the front door.

We're on vacation this week. We're on our annual pilgrimage to the Frozen Four hockey tournament and this year it is inexplicably in Florida. I'm not complaining. This is my old stomping ground. This is a place I have known my whole life.

My grandparents docked their boat on the West coast of Florida when I was a baby. Then they bought a place. Then my sister came here for college. Then my parents moved here. Then I came after college and stayed.

I left Florida in a hurry eleven years ago. I had followed a boy to Jacksonville. Left my job with the Mouse and made him be my boyfriend. The new job didn't work out. The relationship didn't either. I fled to the first job offer I got. It brought me to Massachusetts.

The last time I was back in the land of alligators, palmetto bugs, herons, pelicans and dolphins, I flew into town and my parents picked me up at the airport and we immediately started driving North with all of their belongings. They were starting over again near my sister in Pennsylvania.

It is a strange feeling being here with my husband and his parents and our children. My life is completely different with age and time and love and children. But nothing here has changed. That's not entirely true...there are bigger, faster boats out on the Gulf. Ones that carry 50 tourists at a time in a racing boat the size of a semi with motors that must guzzle a gallon of gas for every 10 feet.

But, otherwise, it is the same. The same weathered homes in cheerful colors. The same white sand. The same salty water. The same bright signs claiming early-bird grouper specials. The same refreshing, clear blue pools surrounded by blinding-white cement courtyards and guarded by salt-water-rusted, white, iron fencing.

It is that sameness, that recognizability, that makes it feel as though I am living in an alternate universe; that I could hop in our rental car and drive down the coast and over the Sunshine Skyway bridge and spy on my parents; perhaps catch a glimpse of my dad. Introduce him to his granddaughter. She looks just like him, you know.

We're at the beach this week. I'm here with my family in Florida. The air smells sweet; a mixture of orange and bougainvillea blossoms, salt, and cocoa-butter tanning sprays - like a pungent ghost, taking me by the hand guiding me to where I belong.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad while sitting on the beach...suckahs!! (also, there's a very scary cat at our house so don't go rob us)


  1. This transports me in many ways.  To Florida, the beach - but more to a reminiscent, wistful place.  Feels good to be there.  And I love knowing a fellow tribe member is having a restful vacation.

  2. Ahhhh! Sounds marvelous! I need a vacation. And, you kitty comment made me smile!

  3. Lovely, emotive piece. I enjoyed reading it, especially the final paragraph.

    I'm from the northern midwest, but have been in (South) Florida since I was 13. I spent almost 20 years here wanting to leave but never doing it. Now I'm still here and find so much more about it to love: its cultural diversity, its colorful pockets of natural (non-plam-treed) beauty, its weather from October through April. Right now the windows and doors are open in the house, and I can hear the wind chimes on the patio and see the light green, lacy leaves on my Royal Poinciana tree dipping and waving with each breeze. I used to think I would find happiness if I moved to a "better" place. I could find where I belong. Now that I AM happy, I feel like this IS the best place for me.... This IS where I belong.

    Hope you had a great trip.