We closed out January by leaving my parents’ beachside Florida condo, the ever-present roar of the surf rushing to the shore. Three weeks on Hutchinson Island tied our record-length stay — and though we were ready to return to Missouri, and talked of how we’d relish being home, we knew we’d miss Technicolor, the grass so green, the shocking pink of tumbling bougainvillea, the turquoise hues of the ocean the lingering sherbet-sunsets over the Indian River.
Undoubtedly this was one of our favorite stays in the years we’ve visited the island, a true home away from home, where we resided in a condo that now welcomes adult grandchildren who used to rush into the waves as little ones, all a-shriek with wonder. Now their children are frolicking in the Atlantic.
Yes, Spark and I would miss the old dinosaur of a place that’s opened its arms to so many family members in the decades since my parents bought it, the oldest condo complex on the island, just a 45-minute drive from Jupiter, where the Cardinals have spring training. Lucky birds — how we’d like to return with them, but reality calls, and friends and family beckon.
Writing this column on our last day, windows open to the sea, the view from our wrap-around corner porch was breathtaking. Pausing to take in the scene, I reflected on why this trip had been so special, why the homesickness that sneaks into my suitcase whenever I come south didn’t linger, a feeling that Spark felt too initially, and one we discussed. The feeling prompted me to share a bit of wisdom with him that a British friend passed along. Her mum said the reason you get homesick when you get to a destination is because your soul hasn’t yet arrived.
This time, my soul didn’t tarry as long as it has in the past. The weather was perfect in Florida, only one day of rain as compared to deluges at the same time last year when the shore birds took to the large puddles under the palm trees, and unrelenting sheets of rain forced us to close the shutters, making us feel like sardines in a tin can.
This January there was endless sunshine. Wind can sometimes be a problem on the Atlantic side, but there were only slight breezes making biking especially fun, though a 28-mile ride almost proved too much for us after ingesting a massive burger at a biker-bar in Fort Pierce. A dip in the pool afterward was just the ticket for our played-out legs.
This trip felt more like real-life because Spark and I decided in advance to actually cook for a change. We bought some kitchen necessities and turned out some meals we enjoyed. Of course we did eat out too — couldn’t miss our favorite restaurants — Hogsnappers for sushi and gumbo, Gigi’s, a family-owned Italian spot with Mama in the kitchen fixing pasta that knocks your socks off, and King Neptune, a hole-in-the-wall known for the best fried grouper. Naturally there was Key lime pie from Publix too, the best on the island, according to the locals.
The weeks sped by and soon it was “Home, James, don’t spare the horses,” as Mom used to say when I was a child and our family trips came to an end.
I’ll look back fondly to Florida this time around, recall relaxing under a beach umbrella with a good book, walks in the riverfront park with Spark, and digging for finds at thrift shops on the Treasure Coast, which is what they call the area my parents so happily discovered 40-plus years ago.
As I closed my laptop on a first draft of this column, the Sunshine State gave me a memorable gift — the glory of one last gorgeous sunrise. God willing, we will return next January. In the meantime, the old condo will welcome others from our extended family, Mom and Dad’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
The beachside legacy continues, thanks to my parents. What a blessing.