Florida settled into my soul like a fine mist during my childhood, thanks to my father’s dreams. In the late 1950s, he came to stay with family in West Palm Beach to recuperate from major life changes he’d experienced, from the loss of his father to his mother’s remarriage and his dream of college slipping away. He drove across South Florida in his old DeSoto, thru the cane fields to Belle Glade, where the streets were mud and the sidewalks wooden, to the beach at Fort Myers, where he froze all night sleeping on the dunes.
My earliest memories of Florida come from our annual trips that started after I was old enough to walk. I remember Mom and Dad and I walking along SR40 in Silver Springs and me yelling “Yeow bug! because of the insect invasion between Sun Plaza and the Early American Museum after dark.
I remember walking the Gumbo Limbo Trail at Everglades National Park and Dad trying to scare me as we walked past the solution holes by saying “oooooolite.” I remember jellyfish on the beach and staring out the car window at sugar cane fields, canals, and the awesome expanse of ocean as we drove across the original Seven Mile Bridge, and how the giant jewfish at the Key West Aquarium dwarfed me.
Dad’s dreams of Florida brought us back here every year, even as our family expanded from 3 to 6, and ultimately led to our moving to Ocala, with Silver Springs one of my parents favorite destinations, in 1977. I was in the middle of high school and did not take the change well.
My life moved in different directions until ten and a half years ago, when my sister Susan died. I came back to be with Mom and Dad in this difficult time and I fell back in love with my childhood memories, my father’s dream of Florida.
That dream will always be a part of me, but it is no longer my father’s dream. He left us last night to join my sister Susan. We will carry on that dream, the dream of Florida and backroads, of the Everglades and the springs and forests and gardens and tropical trees he so loved. He will always be with me in my travels.