I never imagined I would wind up living in Florida. In retrospect, man, was I ever stupid.
The tale begins in 2005. I was living in Washington, DC with my husband, Jon, our then-toddler son, the Dude, and an aging lady rottweiler . We lived inside the city, in a 1930′s house that defined the phrase “full of character,” with the majority of our extended family scattered across the Maryland and Virginia suburbs. We spent a lot of time with our family, particularly with my mother and with Jon’s father and his elegant wife, who shall henceforth be referred to by their chosen grandparental names of Pap and Baba.
Pap decided that he and Baba should buy a little place in Florida to spend their winters, so they took an extended trip, scouting the length of the Pirate Coast from Tampa to Naples. They fell in love with the little city of Venice, for the plentiful beaches and the relaxed lifestyle and the charming historic city center, and bought a newly built condo in a small development. They invited us to come visit. We didn’t. I didn’t want to go to Florida. Florida, I thought, was Mickey Mouse and golf carts and early bird specials. Florida wasn’t the place for a city girl like me. We waited for them to come back to Maryland for the summer… we could see them then.
After spending a while living in their new condo, Pap and Baba realized that they were reluctant to return to the DC area. Life in Venice was just too pleasant! They came back to their Maryland house for one last summer, putting the house on the market, where it promptly sold at the height of the real estate bubble. He decided to invest part of his profits into a larger house in Venice, and put the condo on the market. Alas, the bubble had already popped in Florida, and the condo sat on the market, untouched. Pap and Baba used it as a guest house, and when Jon’s sister and her husband succumbed to the lure to move to Florida, they lived in it for several months before they bought a house about a mile away.
In early spring 2007, we finally decided to visit. We stayed with Baba and Pap in their new house, and spent our days swimming in the pool and visiting the beaches and exploring the town. A major highlight of the visit was Saturday evening on Nokomis Beach. Every Wednesday and Saturday evening, drummers gather to form a sunset drum circle on the beach. Jon loves to drum — he took an African drumming class in college, and is still playing the djembe I bought him in 1991 — and I’m just plain a show-off, and I love to dance. I loved it.
That fall, I found myself back on the Pirate Coast. I’d entered a T-Tapp fitness contest, and I was named one of the winners. My prize was to attend the T-Tapp retreat at the Safety Harbor Resort and Spa for free — all I had to do was pay for my airfare from DC to Tampa. At the end of the retreat, Teresa Tapp asked me if I would want to do a magazine shoot, possibly even for the cover of a fitness magazine. Um, yeah! I didn’t really think it would happen, but a month later Teresa called me and asked if I could fly down in November for the shoot.
On the day of the shoot, Teresa sent me out to lunch with one of her staffers, Jen. Jen drove me to one of her favorite restaurants, Frenchy’s on Clearwater Beach. As we drove across the bridge to Clearwater, the sun beaming down out of the clear blue sky and sparkling on the water below us, I sighed, thinking of the chill gray weather I’d left behind in DC. “I wish I lived here,” I said, which took me by surprise. I hadn’t planned to say that, it just fell out of my mouth… much like my years-earlier pronouncement to my best friend, when I’d pointed out a handsome acquaintance at college and unthinkingly said “that one.” I married him, which turned out to be a fabulous decision. Turns out, my surprise wish to live on the Pirate Coast was a good decision too.
A few weeks later, back in DC, Pap came to visit for Thanksgiving with an unusual surprise. Move to Florida, he urged us. It’ll be a great place for the boy to grow up. Move down, he said, and live in the condo, which he offered to us at a price we couldn’t refuse. Everything was coming together to make it possible for us to leave DC: we were in the process of selling our business, our heat-hating rottweiler had just passed away, and, well, I’d made that wish.
So it came to pass that in 2008, we packed up our lives and moved to our little hideaway on the Pirate Coast. And I have never been happier.