We spent just a bit over a week in Florida, that land of abundant sunshine and generous breezes.
We were welcomed by my parents, hugs all around, supper ready for us, and my uncle’s house (which used to be my grandma’s house) prepared for our stay.
We looked at the weather forecast and tried to make plans, tried not to be dismayed at five days of rain forecast during our stay.
We went to the fruit market and bought grapefruit and oranges and strawberries and honeydew and tomatoes and avocados and key limes and lemons and cabbage and lettuce and peppers and one enormous watermelon, all of them dead ripe and local.
We walked on the beach and some of us swam, even though nobody else considered the water warm enough; it was fine once you got wet.
We found treasures, so many shells, and one day a local showed me where to stand in water up to my waist so that I could feel with my feet where the conchs washed in and were not broken yet by the surf.
We basked in the healing rays of the sun, under layers of sunscreen because one time we got second degree sunburns and that was enough for one lifetime.
We wore flip-flops every day, although Gabe didn’t have any and wore shoes and socks, but he felt that it was chilly a lot of the time anyway, so that was okay.
We rented bikes and rode seven miles down the Legacy Trail toward Venice.
We got to see the backyards of the average Floridian living along the trail, and then just as we were getting to the state park section, we ran out of juice and turned around.
We were starving hungry and ate our lunch at Der Dutchman when we got back at 3 PM.
We watched an otter mother fish for water snakes and catfish along the banks of the Myakka River while her babies romped on the bank, waiting for lunch.
We kept vigilant eyes on lazy alligators that slid into the water to swim to our side of the river when we caught tilapia that they wanted for themselves.
We made fish tacos with the tilapia and bass and bluegills that we caught, and they were fantastic.
We watched tiny lizards skitter and fed fish-bait shrimp to an intrepid egret and an opportunistic heron that kept hanging around.
We marveled at the odd plants, the “houseplants” growing everywhere as landscaping details and just wild along the trails.
We took pictures of all the interesting things so we can sketch them in nature journals when we get home because we forgot to take our nature journals, but we never did get a parrot on camera.
We walked along an osprey trail in virgin Florida pine forest that was mostly scrubby palmetto and not very tall pines because they are just different there.
We saw the osprey nests all along in the taller dead trees, and on the ground we found a nervous gopher tortoise who scurried tortoise-fashion along the trail as though he was late for something.
We took the pelican trail back to the car and the sand was so hot it hurt our feet, and we didn’t see one pelican on the trail.
We ladies poked around in thrift stores with my mom while the guys went fishing with my dad on the one day that it rained.
We were grateful every day that it didn’t rain, except sometimes we would hear it in the night and then we were happy for the locals who wanted rain as badly as we didn’t want rain.
We ate dinner with my parents on a sunset ride around Sarasota Bay on the night before they headed north and home.
We played games in the evenings: Cover Your Assets with two decks and teams.
We made new friends who treated us to great pizza and shared their home with us.
We cleaned our house and did all the laundry, turned in our rental vehicle full of sand, and boarded a plane that got us back to Pennsylvania in two hours.
We drove home from Pittsburgh in a steady rain, and it kept raining the whole next day, and it is raining again today, but we are not going to complain, because we hope the sun will come again for us too.
We are happy to be home!