|This is what I refer to as the last few months of the "OMG if I don't get 8 hours of sleep I will fall apart" era: Circa 2009, Portland, after just waking up. At 11am.|
|Watching the sunset. From Waleed's seat. Which he appropriated as his own.|
|"mama? this train take us to hotel? We going to hotel? mama? really? hotel?" [and repeat]|
Still, the reservations were made, so we drove down, through serious thunderstorms, and felt thankful for the game of Scattergories packed in the trunk. Thankfully the rain subsided by the time we hit the keys. We headed to our villa overlooking
And after checking out our digs, listening to the music floating from the pool, and touring said heated and salted pools, we set out to explore the island.
I was a little disappointed by Key West. This is not Key West's fault. It's like being sad that the sun is yellow because you desired it to be a magnificent rose-pink. When it came to Key West, I imagined, it being so close to Cuba and the Bahamas, that this would be a lush little tropical paradise. Florida's little Fiji. [And as I haven't visited Fiji, if Fiji is a bunch of shops selling catch-phrase t-shirts and a Ripley's Believe It Or Not museum, then my bad, this was Fiji] The beaches I envisioned were sparse. We drove by a few promising ones but one turned out to be a burial ground for African slaves whose bodies had washed ashore and were buried therein. Another lovely beachfront turned out to be a memorial site for island-dwellers who lost their lives to AIDS. Both important to commemorate but not exactly places I want to set the kid loose with a plastic shovel and a bucket.
Still, when you have unexpectedly fantastic weather, family to spend time with [and to get help from], and nothing to do but be idle together, cheesy or not, trolley-tours withstanding, a good time tends to be had.
|Conch-Tour-Train. This is before he conked his head on said conch train. Literally. Sigh.|
I might wear it this way until he's off to college.
The spousal unit and I also got to eat out alone. Something we haven't done in months, and on a vacation? Fuggedaboutit. It was awesome to just sit across from each other and talk. Not, check diapers, and wash little hands, and break down food for said tiny hands and mouths. We could eat peacefully. Walk down Duval street past 7:30pm. People watch. Relax. Did we talk about the kids the whole time? Well mostly. But it was still special.
And all of this was wonderful. It was relaxing. It was memorable. But nothing came close to the pit-stop on the drive back. Our brief sojourn at Bahia Honda Key as we headed back to Miami.
Pictures can only show you a rendering of what it looked like. But how can anyone render how it felt to stand on sandy white beaches, dip ones feet into teal blue water with flecks of aqua green? It can only be experienced firsthand.
We took a bridge up an abandoned railroad and glimpsed its skeletal remains, a memory of a time long ago.
And I walked on the sandy white beach. I dipped my toes into the clear blue water. And I stood and looked around me. Thirty miles from surf-n-turf and trolley rides, in this quiet little key, I found Fiji.
There are moments you feel alive. To be sure, I feel alive every day. Feeling alive is a default sensation of you know being alive. Eyes blinking, fingers typing. Check. Alive. I guess alive isn't the right word.
For moments like these, finding a hidden tiny little glimpse of Fiji so unexpectedly, there is no right word. It's a moment when your heart beats a little faster. When you are overwhelmed by the cool tingle of the water on your feet, the breeze in your hair, and the sun beating down on your hair and the sights before you. It's a moment when you can feel not alive so much as feel your soul, the essential core of you who are underneath the exhaustion, and hopes, and despair. Where you have no doubt you are standing before glory, and where you believe in something greater than you without question because how can there be beauty this painfully gorgeous without a Beautiful Planner. I've had these moments before, cleaning a dirty pot, standing on a volcanic Hawaiian cliff, and each time it feels like the first time. It is the feeling of undiluted peace.
After two hours, reluctantly, we left. Took the long drive back to Miami and talked about camping at Bahia Honda as soon as we could. I'm not sure we actually will do this. It is very far away. But the thought of it makes me smile. And later that evening, the kids asleep, as we sat around my brother's kitchen table, eating mango ice cream, chatting about life, and plans, and teasing as we did as children, I felt that stirring again being with the family unit I once belonged to fully before I created a family unit of my own.
We're back home now. Happy and tired. And thankful. For family, for surviving air travel with two children, and for the memory of Bahia Honda Beach, a two hour glimpse into paradise which for a brief moment sprouted wings on my soul and which I learned that evening around dinner with my family, is always there if I just open my eyes and look around. Because at a kitchen table, a subway train, a beautiful beach, miraculous beauty abounds.