On my first full day in Florida we went to a fruit stand. There were five different kinds of mangoes and three kinds of yams. As we headed toward the green beans, the Cuban owner pointed to the box in the corner and said, “Fresh.” Sure enough, those green beans were so fresh they had a pulse. It might be the heat, but they appeared to be throbbing to me. So green, they were glowing. In Alaska, I can recall being excited to get my green peppers at 2 for $4. The green peppers at the fruit stand? 2 for $1. I think in every place you go, there is a set amount of time it takes to get anywhere and a set amount of money you will always spend at the grocery store. It may take twenty-five minutes to get anywhere in Tampa but it costs $20 for a produce run that would cost $65 in Soldotna. As the owner checked us out, Clara sat near the scale and labeled everything with her favorite word: mine. She was especially insistent about the strawberries. I tried to squeeze in the “no, not everything in the universe belongs to you” lesson again while the owner said, “That. That is good. How you say in English? She is learning to choose. Not like McDonald’s. I think you know my meaning.” I think I do. We either know what we want or we want what we are wanted to want. That’s right, Clara. Own those strawberries.
Then, we had to pick up some sandals for Clara at JC Penney’s. I briefly confuse my cashier for the entire state of Florida. She has rhinestones on her shorts, a shirt with large flower prints, a big beaded necklace, and a little extra skin gathering at her knees and elbows. She is richly tanned. She looks at me and says, “Seven and half months. It’s a boy.” I am perpetually taking up too much time in the check-out aisle, but I’m so thrilled that she doesn’t think I look 11 months pregnant that I effusively praise my Florida Tiresias. My very own Florida prophet. I plan to buy a shirt tomorrow just so I can ask her where I’ll be living in three months.
More importantly, there was a time when I might have scoffed at rhinestones. I also was not impressed by sprinkler systems, stucco, space, produce, landscape, or tile. Now, as we swim at my aunt’s house and she says that her husband wakes up, goes for a run, and then jumps into their pool, I think, that is some million dollar living right there. How do I get that?
It’s hard to know what you want and what’s just a commercial. I do know that when you avow yourself to a person, place, thing, or fruit, you come to believe it is good since it is newly pre-destined by you to be a part of your life. Wanting something might be as simple as deciding on it. Choosing it. In these first few days, I am looking at Florida and learning a new language about the small things that make a big life. If it works out that Florida is next up in the great big checkout aisle of life, I’ll be ready to point and say, “Mine.”
We have had a full weekend already. We’ve been wearing sunscreen all day. It took Clara awhile to warm up to the big bath tub with blue water, but by the end of the morning, we couldn’t get her out of the water.
Tonight, we went to a retirement party with my parents on the beach at a place called Whiskey Joes. Clara finally fluttered her eyebrows into someone’s boat after walking along the shore for an hour, saying “Boat! Get in! Mine!”
Clara liked playing with the bean bags. I know we both look a little red-cheeked, but that was from the heat. I promise I’m not burning my two-year-old! We carry our 60 SPF Nuetragena stick wherever we go.
Clara and Grandma go for a stroll.
Here’s Clara, encountering her first . . .
one of these.