The thought of going to Florida makes me all kinds of happy. My brain puts on rose-colored glasses and I sigh and smile and gush. I remember and imagine and relive favorite Floridian moments – like walking along the water’s edge, feeling gulf breezes brushing past me and watching waves lap against the shore. Sea gulls, pelicans, and dragonflies flit across the skies of my mind, sand pipers dart among the waves and adorable little crabbies scuttle past sideways. There are puffy pastel and cottony white clouds floating above, and scrubby growth fills in all the spaces everywhere, while flowers bloom high and low. It is the perfect tropical paradise.
Of course, that paradise is nothing but an idyll. Reality has lots of sand – foot scorching sand, sand in your suitcase, sand in your food and sand in your library book. If you swim in the gulf, you will even find sand in embarrassing places. Then there are the unexpected convective showers that drench you and leave you gasping for breath in a cloud of humidity while your clothes stick uncomfortably all over you. And, if you’re really lucky, you may get a rash, a bug bite or have a run-in with a jelly fish. To top it all off, there are fabulous attractions everywhere – if only you didn’t have to drive through 2-mile-per-hour traffic on confusing two-lane roads to find them. There are endless overflowing crowds of people and vendors with their hands out to help relieve you of any spare cash you may have. Sometimes it’s enough to put off even the most seasoned tourist.
Somewhere in the middle lies the real Florida experience and I’ve found it varies from one visit to the next – each stay a different combination of the extremes. Last year the extended family gathered to celebrate Mom’s birthday and it was really close to the Idyll. A great mix of cousins, siblings, parents and grandparents assured that there was something fun happening at all times of the day or night.
It was such a perfect time, my son and I decided we would do it again this year, so we rented the same condo on the beach and traveled down together. And yes, it is great, but there are the unavoidable imperfections. Maybe part of it is that it’s hard for the present to live up to the past. It’s rarely possible to recreate something that was so great. The fact that there are no cousins for my son to hang out with is making this a little ho-hum for him. He’s making the best of it and is mostly happy.
If that were the only unpleasant nudge from reality, we’d be great. But no, there’s more. Our reservation dates were not as expected and our condo was not available until the following day, so our landlord-for-the-week put us up at a different condo for one day. This was not the worst thing ever, but it was inconvenient and stressful. The other downer is that I ended up with an abscessed tooth. Such a weird thing to happen! I went to an urgent care place on Labor Day with a swollen cheek and lots of pain. The nurse told me that being at a lower altitude sometimes causes things like this to bloom. Despite prescribed antibiotics the swelling continued. I called my dentist’s office Tuesday morning and they said it would take a good 48 hours for the antibiotics to really get on board. They made changes to the treatment and the swelling is finally going down and the pain is subsiding.
My son is a worry wart and this abscess had him worried…more worried than I was. It dragged him down for a couple of days. Today he’s better, but he went swimming and ended up with quite a sunburn. We also tried out a shelter on the beach and it was a fail. It was like trying to hold a parachute down against gale force winds. We did manage to pitch it, but it had to face away from the shoreline. It was quite silly. We’ve decided against taking it out again. It may very well show up in the Christmas White Elephant gift exchange.
So, while this has been a vacation of imperfections, it has had it’s good moments, too. It hasn’t put me off Florida at all. I’m already thinking about how we can make next year better. There’s no denying I want to return. I’m pretty sure my attraction to Florida is visceral. I was born on Key West in July, making me both a Conch and a Crab. Sadly, my parents left for more westerly locales when I was just a few months old….