An Ode to Florida

Sentimental things were short changed in my family.  The most tradition we had was gathering on Sunday for dinner at my grandparents house- which fizzled out once the grandkids grew older and when my grandparents moved permanently to Florida.  For my grandparents, Florida consisted of endless yard work, endless car washing, and endless westerns on TV.  They loved all of the above so much so that my grandfather would actually walk around with a video camera (the size of a boom box) and create home videos of how the house looked, of the sparkling car in the driveway, and of course- the grass. Not joking.  We watched videos of the camera angle stuck on his feet walking through the grass so we could see how healthy it is in Florida.

I'm made up of a mix of English, Macedonian, and German and for some reason the Macedonian part of my family was the part that we celebrated the most.  And by most I mean, I called my grandfather "dedo" and my grandmother was "baba".  I called one of my mom's sisters "teta" meaning aunt and I'd get angry when people couldn't pronounce it.  They'd say "what do you call her- tedda?"  Tedda is a stupid thing to call an aunt- it's teta.

We did lots of family trips to stay with my grandparents in Florida.  I visited at least two times a year while I was growing up.  When my dad was giving his time to keep the family company afloat, my mom drove my brother and I to Florida.  She would triumphantly pull into the driveway in Spring Hill exactly eighteen hours after we left- no overnight stops-just driving straight through to be as efficient as possible.

I remember when my mom and grandma drove all of the kids to florida and my cousin Jane was eating a blue blow pop when, just as we crossed into Kentucky from Cincinnati, she threw up on my lap.

I remember the time that we ate at Denny's and the service was so bad we actually got up and left.

I remember the time I was in Florida for my 13th birthday and my dad sent me 13 pink roses since he couldn't join us.  I remember the wicker basket the roses came in.  I remember standing in the porch getting my photo taken with those roses.  It was the first time someone sent me flowers.

I remember another birthday when my mom and grandmother brought me breakfast in bed, which is significant since eating in bed was taboo in our house.

I remember driving down with my family and I was allowed to bring a friend.  In the back of the van, my friend convinced me that she could cut hair.  So with my teal caboodle on my lap to catch the severed strands and the scissors snipping in the grip of her hands, I got bangs somewhere in Georgia.

I remember a time in college when I flew down with 3 friends and we drank so much that I felt poignant shame for my actions. On top of the entire family knowing about my binge drinking episode, I threw up the entire flight home.

I remember waking up to the smell of dark roast coffee and the sound of newspaper crumpling as my grandparents ate breakfast at approximately 4:30 a.m.  Just kidding.  But not really.

I remember my parents waking up early to run and walk.  And my dad coming back from the run to swim in the pool.

I remember the moon reflection on the pool.

I remember sitting on the lanai with my grandfather at 4 o'clock happy hour when he would join the rest of the family outside while he smoked (chewed) a cigar and laughed.

I remember how my grandfather would use his athletic training expertise to dig into the pressure points on Brandon's neck when we were dating- and when we were married.

I remember the savage way he ate bar-b-q ribs and how my grandmother looked past his heathen ways.  In more ways than just how he ate.

I dont really know what bucket to put sentimental things into.  In that way, the stoic unfeeling German side takes over.  Maybe I'm tender about Florida since my grandfather died last year and I've become sadly more aware of the fragility and limitations of life.  In my world, Florida has represented vacation, family, rest, growth, challenge...  In a nostalgic kind of way, I love Florida.  And in a just is kind of way, I love my family.


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