Just another day in paradise. Today we pull up anchor and leave Mermaid Cove. It won’t be easy. How will I start my days without drinking coffee while writing by the rosemary on our condo’s patio? Each morning the sun draws its line, making a band of light, a visible boundary, I must respect. It lights the opposite side of the courtyard while the kids are still asleep, then sundials its way across the lime green grass, heating the pool then advancing to our side of the lawn. By the time its full-court press reaches our patio, Taylor is at the pool and I know it’s time to join her.
I’d been so excited planning our trip to Seagrove. I wanted to do “old Florida”—a studio hideaway, a pool with concrete tables and benches, an unpretentious place like my grandparents and mom took my sister and me when we were little. Then the day before our trip, something unexpected happened. I interviewed a respected author/ filmmaker and actor. Then I filmed a scene in their movie. Surreal. It’s fitting I try to explain it in the early morning mist—a mix of salt, sea, and sand rising with the dew.
I’ve realized again how much I love writing—how it doesn’t feel like work. And I’ve realized I must write—even on vacation. Who was it… Lord Byron?…who said “If I don’t write I’ll go mad.” Normally writing is a release… but here… at least after the first day or so when I relearned how to relax, I’ve still felt the need to write this story…then share it… because I believe in the work of this director and actor. So even on vacation, I get up early to tap away before the kids get up. But I’ve also learned balance…how to leave the laptop, hang out with them at the pool and head to the beach when they’re ready.
Days spent on the sand reading Loving Frank as Taylor reads my favorite Southern writer, Jill McCorkle. Of course she likes the feisty woman in Carolina Moon just as we all liked Sandra Bullock’s character last night in The Blind Side. Cole had wanted us to see it. Like we did at the Hard Rock Hotel in Orlando when they were little, we’d eat out at night, then watch movies—Cole from the fold-out couch and Tay and me from our bed. Difference is this vacation is retro. DVDs…not Pay Per View. No hot tub or amusement parks. Just five days of blue skies, cooler on the beach, a baked ham in the fridge. We needed this trip. Who knows when we’ll all have Spring Break together again.
Thank you, Lord, for a perfect location. Seagrove is cool…Seaside about a mile away. Throngs of kids on bicycles and on foot—loosed by parents in this protective cocoon by the sea. Cole talks for the “bicycle gangs”: “Hey guys, it’s 8…think we better call it a night?” But some are misbehavin’—boys with dead jellyfish on their heads—while younger children dig furiously in the sand closer to moms and dads.
Water Color… Grayton…Blue Mountain…Santa Rosa. Deer grazing along the interstate as we drive to Destin. I learned to relax with the kids behind the wheel…that Taylor is happiest when quietly reading and Cole when lying on the couch watching the NCAA Final Four or checking out the pool house. We’ve listened to hip hop, eaten at Hurricane’s oyster bar, Red Bar (where a sixty-something man danced drunk with a twenty-something woman as all watched smashed—and not by alcohol—in a place that obviously ignores fire codes). As gas rose 20 cents a gallon during our stay, I learned a “decent meal” now costs between $20-$25 per person. Funny that Crab Trap in Destin—a place I’d taken the kids since they brought home the plastic buckets and shovels– was still a favorite. Angelina’s take out… an experience…Bayou Bill’s in Panama City our least favorite meal but a fun night in the booth. Cole had gator and liked it—Tay and I tried it but didn’t. They made fun of me…always good times when they are the closest. Taylor is a dark brunette these days—black hair and beautiful. Cole towers over us both, his hair flipping out from under his UK gangsta cap, something girls and Cats’ fans have complimented.
Yesterday after the kids went to the room for showers I stayed alone on the beach…flour white sand glistening with dead jelly fish. Emerald coast flickering with reflection. Fishing poles in a line, kayak grounded before the life guard’s station, red, then yellow and blue flags. I think of a Louisville couple at the pool who said they’re staying down here till September. I’d napped earlier…but I began to dream. They saw me writing and said there’s a sign in a Seaside window: “Writer for hire.”
Crows are calling…gotta run. Hate that it’s over. They say, “All good things must come to an end.” That’s why I hate them.
But then… I remember I can simply disagree. We can do other getaways. And as hard as it is to return to grading papers and drinking my coffee from a thermos, thanks, Lord, for a job…where students will want to know what I did over the break. Thanks for Brooke who suggested I read Loving Frank, a book about a woman who needed not just a man—Frank Lloyd Wright, an artist no less– but a creative career of her own. Thanks for family and friends who’ve checked in over the miles. Life truly is good…and I choose to believe it can get even better. Cole asked me later if I wanted to go look for that sign. I’d said it would be fun to work for our supper…or beds and breakfast…for a summer adventure. Though born Southerners, we’ve all three come to realize that home isn’t a physical place—it’s wherever we are together.