P&P Prompt / A Lovely Bunch of Coconuts
I wasn’t interested in Florida. Certainly didn’t consider living there. During my Virginia childhood, the elite in our county, of which there were very few, spent winter vacations in Florida. It was a place of the old and the rich. Not for me.
It was 1973. I was 18 with one year of college and almost three years of living in Maine behind me. For financial reasons, I couldn’t continue to my sophomore year. Didn’t matter. Most of my friends were leaving school anyway. One got married, one moved to Arizona with her family, one switched to an art school in Boston, one ran off with her hippy boyfriend, and one, like me, couldn’t afford to remain in college.
Maine was annoyingly cold. Sick of freezing my ass most of the year, I decided to move on. Options were available. My artist friend invited me to share her one-bedroom apartment in Boston. I could get a job and save money to return to school. But Boston was miserably cold, too.
My friend who moved to Arizona said her family had an extra bedroom they’d rent to me. But, Arizona? Naw, I was an east-coast girl.
My life-long friend’s mom in Maryland offered me free room and board for as long as I needed to figure out my life. Tempting. But, I was originally from Maryland. Did I want to go backward?
I spent the summer working the night shift at a nursing home. Not my dream job. All those nights waiting to respond to the nurse-help button, waiting to assist someone to the bathroom or provide a bedpan, give out meds, or listen to an octogenarian's memories at midnight did not provide any clarity about my future.
When my dad, who had recently sold everything he owned in Virginia and sailed to Florida, invited me to visit, I jumped at the chance. A new environment was exactly what I needed. I’d visit for a couple of weeks, workout my future plans, and get on with my life.
I resigned from my job, moved out of my shared apartment the same week that everyone else was moving out, and drove to the airport with a Delta ticket in hand.
First, a puddle-jumper to Boston. Then, a jet to Melbourne — not the one in Australia — the one on the central Atlantic coast of Florida. I sat next to a young newlywed couple going to Melbourne for their honeymoon. We chatted. I expressed surprise that they were honeymooning in a state of old people.
“Oh, honey, you are so wrong about that,” the 20-something woman said, “Florida is a great place for newlyweds. Gorgeous beaches, boats, beautiful resorts. We wanted to go to one of the big fancy places further south but didn’t have the money. But, Melbourne’s nice. We’re staying at two different places. One week on Indianatlantic Beach across the Indian River from Melbourne and another week on the river. We’re going to have a river honeymoon and a beach honeymoon. Isn’t that great? And for less money than just one week in South Florida. I bet you’ll like it there.”
I expressed my doubt, “Doubt it, I’m visiting my dad. We have a complicated relationship. Just going to get away for a while and figure out where I want to live and what I want to do. Florida isn’t my style.”
“Where does your father live?” the husband asked.
“Well, he sold all his property in Virginia, bought a sailboat, and spent a few months sailing to Florida. He spent Christmas at a marina in Melbourne, liked it, and stayed. He sold his sailboat and bought a houseboat. Still lives at the same marina. It’ll be interesting to live on a houseboat for two weeks.”
“Wow,” the husband said, “that sounds great! Maybe, you’ll really like it and stay.”
The wife said, prophetically, “I bet you will. I bet you stay.”
I chuckled, “You’ll lose that bet! Florida isn’t for me.”
The airport in Melbourne was minuscule compared to Boston’s Logan. The plane landed on the tarmac facing a building that wasn’t much bigger than a house. The honeymoon couple and I gathered our belongings and exited into the August heat. The woman gasped, “Good lord, it’s hot!”
Heatwaves shimmered above the tarmac. The intense warmth was shocking but felt delicious to me.
We walked toward the terminal, saying our goodbyes outside the door. The honeymooners opened the door and I was chilled by the air-conditioning.
I walked a few feet back on the tarmac to escape the assaulting cold from the building. I basked in the heat and looked up at the nearby coconut palms. The palm fronds were swaying in a breeze. I could see a lovely bunch of coconuts hanging like large, brown Christmas bulbs. Overhead were the largest, fluffiest, most beautiful clouds I’d ever seen.
I just stood there enjoying the humid heat, looking up, smiling.
At that moment, I knew I was home.
© Dennett 2021