Monday, November 26, 2007

Remembering Florida

Recently, I’ve been editing and writing Florida-related passages, and some of them have vividly reminded me of what it was like growing up there. A week or two into the work, I found myself homesick for someplace I haven’t lived in a dozen years or so. True, we have steamy heat and palms and mangroves and shore birds and lizards here in Singapore, too. But there’s much that I miss, at least the way I remember it.

I miss the clack-clack of high-heeled sandals in the tiled, fountain-filled courtyard of the Columbia restaurant in St. Augustine. I miss Ybor City, Tampa’s historical district and home of amazing Cuban food and atmosphere. I miss hearing the rolling syllables of Spanish after every English announcement.

I miss watching the east-coast beaches shimmering during thunderstorms. I miss the beaches at night. I remember getting up in pitch blackness and reaching the beach just in time to see a massive sea turtle crouching over a hole in the sand, dropping dozens of eggs the size of golf balls before shuffling imperturbably back into the sea.

I miss playing one-on-one basketball and shell games with the dolphins just up the road at Marineland - nothing in the world lifts the spirits like delighting a dolphin, especially when no one else is around - before some stupid kid threw something dangerous in and they had to put up fences.

I miss my maternal grandmother’s house, just across the bridge from the ocean, and the way the sand clung to our feet after a day on the beach. I even miss her refusal of air-conditioning. Now I see it was just an extension of her love of the old Florida ways.

I miss Southern sweetened iced tea, more plentiful than water, always the perfect taste, always ice-cold. I love that my paternal grandmother, no matter where she is in the world, just can’t stop herself from asking for “sweet tea.” I feel the same.

I am going back for a week or so in December, to visit and to try to adjust to the inevitable changes. Even so, when I dream of Florida, I think I will still see what I miss, what I remember.

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