Yes, I know… you weren’t aware we’d gone to Florida!
I’m sorry I dropped out of blogging. This was a strange winter. For some reason I felt discouraged. Writing without whining was practically impossible. So I didn’t write. The odd thing is, there was nothing really wrong. I just felt melancholic. Or, alternatively, cross. (I love the word cross. Doesn’t it make you think of a toddler, hugely scowling? That was me, at least inwardly, too often this winter.)
But in mid-March, my friend Joanne and I loaded up the car, the bikes, and the kids, and drove the twenty-three hours to Florida as usual. It ended up being just the change of pace I needed.
Every year we go to a little town halfway between Orlando and Tampa. Large swaths of Polk County are still rural, with lots of cattle and orange groves. In our area townhouses and strip malls are just beginning to intrude. Every year we stay in the same timeshare condo in a sleepy development populated mostly by retirees and visiting grandchildren. It is quiet, safe, and, as vacations go, inexpensive. We love it. My kids and I have gone since 2003. Alex and Joanne first joined us in 2004.
Though some things have changed as the children have grown older (drawing with sidewalk chalk on the patio flags has given way to cutthroat games of Risk on the living room floor), we have developed our traditions. We always shop at Goodwill for used books and miscellany. (This year I found three Talbots dresses for church for $5 each!) The kids always play in the pool. We always go biking. (Lucy learned to ride a two-wheeler at the condo.) And we always do one day-trip that’s educational. In 2004 we visited the Tampa Aquarium. At left are Jon, age 16, Lucy, 6, and Alex, 8, over Jon’s shoulder (click to enlarge).
This year we went to Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry.
Here they are: Lucy, 12, Jon, 22, Alex 14. I am enjoying imagining the reenactment at 30, 40, and 32!
Joanne and I are a great team. It’s easy to split the few chores. We alternate cooking simple suppers. She never minds driving to pick up something at the grocery store, and I am always good to grill at the pool or take the kids for a bike ride. Of course the main Florida activities are
and 2) soaking up sun in and around the pool. Preferably both at the same time.
This year was far cooler than usual, often in the 60s. Everyone told us what a hellish winter it had been for Florida. The maintenance man at the development — I always talk with maintenance men — told me excitedly about having seen sleet for the first time. “There was these little bits of ICE on my jacket!” he said in wonder.
When it felt chilly around the pool, Lucy and I would go for a bird walk. Joanne observed that while she has an internal tractor-beam pulling her to Walmart, I have one ear and eye always cocked for birds. Florida is a birder’s heaven. “Listen to that osprey. What do you suppose he’s screaming about?” I’d say. Or I’d jump up from my deck chair to peer over the pool fence, exclaiming, “Who is that talking?”
Around the development we saw plenty of ospreys, red-shouldered hawks, turkey vultures, catbirds, mockingbirds, and white ibises. We think we saw a red-cockaded woodpecker, which is rare, but when Lucy downloaded her photos she found she’d only captured the tree.
Our biggest score (literally) was a Florida sandhill crane. They are almost four feet tall, and on the Endangered Species List. Lucy was very careful as she snuck up on him to take his picture. To her great disgust, moments later a big sunburned man lumbered up to the crane, brandished a camera in its face, and the bird spooked and flew away.
You know you’re relaxing when the knotty problem of the day is that someone scared the bird.