Perhaps the fact that my husband and I were January babies (we were born three days apart in the same year) is why we both crave sunlight and warmth, especially now. That would be our present to each other in 2013, we decided, and made a run for it. Sam wanted golf and a tropical garden or two; I wanted water, sand, a good book, and no other agenda.
We ended up on Siesta Key, the northernmost barrier island off Sarasota, and it was perfect: There is nothing like a community of (mostly) senior citizens to make you feel young on your natal day(s). Until they blow by you on the Tamiami Trail.
Sam, a bred-in-the-bone New York driver (he doesn’t need Jesus as an excuse to honk) ignored them and happily puttered along at 45 miles an hour. “Look at that view!” he would exclaim, as we made our sedate way over bridges and causeways. “The color of the water! Those palm trees!” He braked for sightings of pelicans, egrets, and (imagined) pythons; women boasting the gravity-defying results of plastic surgery; and roadside stands selling rich, juicy Honeybell tangelos*.
The slower pace made me feel cosseted, and I resisted the urge to interrogate. (“Who are you, and what have you done with my husband?”) Instead, I enjoyed unexpected flashbacks to winter vacations spent in Florida with my mother’s parents. They were truly Happy Campers, and delighted in showing me how important it was to bask in every moment.
It didn’t occur to me until now that maybe those long-ago holidays were what sparked my fondness for living in neat, small, workmanlike spaces. It’s why I feel at home in boats, why a typical Manhattan apartment isn’t much of a stretch, and why editing, curating, and improvising rank high on my list of life skills.
These days, a typical mobile home bristles with brush guards, bikes, sea kayaks, and boogie or surf boards. It bellies into oncoming traffic with the bonhomie of a drunk at a party. That sort of transport holds no appeal for me, but hmm, something vintage might be fun. Sam got into the spirit of the thing. “Next year, let’s take January off and be snowbirds!” he said. “I’ll even let you drive.”
* Honeybells are best enjoyed while sitting on the warm hood of a car and watching the sunset, but take them any way you can get them. My favorite mail-order source is Robert Is Here Fruit Stand and Farm (estab. 1960), in Homestead, Florida.