Finding Inspiration In A Slice Of Paradise
One of my favorite writing spots is at my writing desk in the nook of my bedroom at our beach house. From my little perch, I can watch the seagulls, pelicans, parrots, and osprey fly by, people walking along the beach, children playing, and dolphins parading out in the gulf waters that are ever-changing from shades of sea foam green to navy blue, lake-calm to large breakers. Just now, as I’m writing this I’m watching a dad teach his daughter how to do handstands. It’s a never-ending tableau, always something to look at.
I can’t help but think of my dad when we’re here on the island. We’ve had a connection to this little piece of paradise for as long as I can remember.
Growing up, we always came to Anna Maria Island or sometimes neighboring Longboat Key. My dad taught me to body surf and the names of all the seashells we collected. We daydreamed about moving to the island and opening a bakery — to live in paradise baking cakes, cookies, and pies, which we would deliver.
My favorite thing was hearing his stories about his childhood memories on the island.
A Lifetime Of Island Memories
While my dad was born in Bartow, Florida, he was raised in nearby Lakeland, Florida (where I still live to this day — we don’t travel far). It was less than a two-hour drive to Anna Maria Island, a small island between St. Petersburg and Sarasota on the Gulf of Mexico. As he told it, the day school got out, his mother would pile him and his siblings into the car and drive to AMI where they would rent a house and stay until it was time to go back to school. His dad was on the crew that built one of the bridges to the island and his grandmother worked at a hotel on the island.
When we heard Dad’s stories, it was always about Anna Ma-rye-a Island rather than Anna Ma-ree-a. Evidently, there was a disagreement as to how it should be pronounced. You rarely hear Anna Ma-rye-a anymore.
As a boy, my dad had the freedom to run around the island with his friends. They would ride their bikes out to the island’s north end where there was a military base instead of the dozens of homes there now. They would fish for hours on the city pier or go into the old IGA to buy soda and candy. It sounded like an idyllic childhood.
One day, a few years ago, my mom rented a golf cart for the day and we drove my dad around the island. He pointed out the location of the hotel where his grandmother worked, the houses where some of his buddies lived, and where his family stayed when they came for the summer. He was such a great storyteller so it was easy to visualize a group of sun-tanned boys spending their summer days exploring the island.
This summer, it will be twelve years since my parents, husband, and I purchased our little piece of paradise. We had a decade of enjoyable years; dolphin watching, sunset watching, seafood eating, and hanging out with friends and family. We were actually here at the house the very weekend the world shut down because of the pandemic. That’s one memory I would rather erase. I think my dad only returned to the beach a couple of times after that. All of the restrictions and his poor health made it too difficult. That always makes me sad because I know how much he loved it here.
Reminders Sometimes Come In Threes
My husband and I were on the island a couple of weeks ago. We had gone to the grocery store and were running some errands. At our last stop, I waited in the car while he entered the drugstore. I opened my phone and swiped up to look at Facebook. When I did so, my dad’s contact information showed up on my screen. It was startling to see because I had not called him in months. I had not even made a phone call to anyone that day. I have to admit, there were some tears.
I thought about something that happened earlier in the day. I was out by the pool and heard a cardinal’s distinctive call before I saw the splash of crimson in the bushes. I always hear cardinals in Lakeland, but I’m more likely to hear seagulls, parrots, or osprey at the beach, not cardinals. Some say that the cardinal is a reminder of a loved one.
Later that day, a memory of my parents standing on the Anna Maria City Pier popped up on my Facebook.
These three things, my dad’s contact information showing up, the cardinal, and the Facebook memory all made me think of my dad. Perhaps it was because his birthday was coming up. It’s actually this weekend, March 12. (The date marks nine months since his death as well.) I’m so glad that I’m spending his birthday here at one of his favorite places in the world.
Happy Birthday, Dad! I miss you. I wish we could sit out on the balcony together and watch the sunset again, but, I’m pretty sure what you’re seeing is much more spectacular than an AMI sunset. Love, your DD (darling daughter).
How about you? Is there a special place that makes you reminisce about a loved one? I’d love to hear.
4 thoughts on “Why A Special Little Island Brings Fond Memories Of My Dad”
Those auto-generated Facebook memories are something. I’m often surprised or moved by them. Also can’t believe I haven’t seen random shots in there like the closeups of expiration dates, food ingredient lists, etc. that I always have to shoot a picture of to be able to read!
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Ha ha, that’s the truth!
Hey Kim. I’m just getting around to reading this. He sounds like a great man. and similar to my dad. I do remember when I was in 8th grade, the whole family was in the car as they pulled up to the school one Friday afternoon to get me. I saw my dad in the driver’s seat which was very unusual. He was such a hard worker and had long hours trying to grow a business. When I got in the car, he said “we’re heading to Daytona and your mom already packed your suitcase!” He loved going over there. We lived in Tampa. We always stayed at the Lincoln in a large room for all 6 of us! It isn’t there anymore. It’s a sweet memory I’ll always have.
Thanks for sharing yours,
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Awww, that’s a great memory!