Monday, December 8, 2014

Family and the Familiar in Florida

Last March when I was in the process of deciding to extend my sabbatical into a second year, I knew that I wanted to spend either Thanksgiving or Christmas with my family.  I sent a message to my sister-in-law, Carolyn, and asked her what their plans were for Thanksgiving.  During the past 10 years, we’ve been blessed to spend the Thanksgiving holiday in Longboat Key, Florida at Grandma and Grandpa Weaver's condo.  So I asked Carolyn if they were planning on going to Florida for Thanksgiving.  She said that they were planning on going if I was planning on going.  I told her I was planning on going if they were planning on going.  So I guess we were all going to Florida for Thanksgiving, as long as my parents were on board as well.  That was basically a given. 

I also planned my destination this fall keeping in mind a location with easy access to Florida.  Thankfully, Spirit Airlines flies into all the major cities in Colombia… for super cheap!  My flight from Chicago to Cartagena was $170 and I was able to fly from Bogota to Tampa for $220!  And fun fact: Cartagena is closer to Miami than Chicago is. 

And so, I was Florida bound for the Thanksgiving holiday with the fam.  I’m still doing my best to practice the philosophy of “wherever you are, be all there”, but I was really looking forward to time at the beach.  This is in part because it is a place with few surprises.  After constantly learning new things about different cultures, once in a while, the familiar can be a place of great rest.    
Made sure to watch the sun set over the Gulf of Mexico every day.  Love it!

Longboat Key has been this place of rest for our family over the years.  And because Weavers have been making regular pilgrimages here since the 1970’s the memories are numerous.  Most of these memories have taken place on the beach and at our favorite restaurants. 
Last time we took this photo, Zack and Carolyn were just engaged!
Walking the beach, often a couple times of day, is obligatory.  If we turn to the left, our destination is the Longboat Key Club where Pops always says we have to touch the rock. 

If we turn to the right, we pass by a handful of beach “bungalows” (read: ginormous mansions) and then turn around at the Privateer (the second oldest condo building on the island after ours) or if we are feeling “adventurous” we walk another 20 minutes to the pier, then turn around.  Walks have been filled with laughs, with tears, with dreams and with fears.  (I promise I didn’t intend for that to rhyme)  Sometimes we walk alone or in pairs.  Some walk in tennis shoes, other in bare feet.  Some admire the birds, others tolerate the birds (me) and one little one (Hudson) likes to chase the birds.  

I used to look for sea shells to take home but after so many years of collecting shells, it doesn’t seem to be necessary any more. 

And then we are able to spend hours on the beach… mostly reading.  My favorite spot is in a low beach chair with my toes in the water. The only reason to move is when the tide gets higher.  This is the epitome of peacefulness.  

But there is a little more activity now that the 3rd generation has arrived.  Huddy loves the water!  And he also likes putting stuff in containers.  So you can imagine all the work he had to do in filling his sand buckets with water.  I’m quite certain we spent a couple hours on this activity.

On cloudy days or days when we find ourselves a little more motivated, we make our way to St. Armand’s Circle or “The Circle” as it’s known.  On this trip, we learned that the Circle was the vision of John Ringling (of Circus fame) back in the day.  His desire was to make a center for world class dining and shopping.  And it is this, but the best part is the people watching, especially from Crab and Fin – our family’s favorite spot on the circle.  They have a wonderful menu highlighted by fresh baked bread but the best part is the piano player.  Grandpa Bob would always remind us to “tip the piano player.” 

In addition to Crab and Fin, Pops always does an incredible job of treating us to wonderful food.  This trip was no different, and maybe even better as my parents felt it appropriate to make sure I was well fed.  I didn’t bother reminding them that I’ve been treated to amazing cuisine, courtesy of Dr. Marco Quijano Rico, my host and boss at the vineyard in Colombia.  But, I’m definitely not one to turn down good food.  If you happen to find yourself in the Sarasota area, may I make a few suggestions?  Try Antoine's, Cafe Gabbiano, Columbia and Cafe L'Europe.  You won't be disappointed!   

Which brings me to a momentous event in Weaver Family history.  My brother made the Thanksgiving turkey.  By this I mean a male member of the Weaver family made the Thanksgiving turkey.  And it was wonderful.  It was dry-brined and spatchcocked and delicious.  Zack also made the sweeter-than-dessert, sweet potato casserole, a family favorite.  Carolyn contributed her family’s classic broccoli casserole and Pops promised to make the pies.  I was puzzled as to how that would happen as all that Pops makes is coffee and toast.  Moms reminded me that Publix sells pies.  Of course.  What was I thinking? 

My proposed Thanksgiving Dinner, “apps on the beach” was postponed a few days as a result of the "Thanksgiving Day Revolt" (that resulted in Zack making the turkey).  We enjoyed lots of cheese in various forms as the sun was setting over the Gulf of Mexico.  I think we should do this more often.   

But alas, one thing was missing.  Well, two actually.  Luke and Rachel.  I kept hoping for a surprise to show up at the door, but no luck.  Instead they are making the most of their Middle East adventure and we couldn’t be happier for them.  But still, we missed them! 
There's some competition going on between these two couples.
It's all fun and games until someone throws out their back. 

I will say, as much as I loved being with my family in a beautiful place, I almost think reverse culture shock is more difficult that culture shock.  It’s the feeling of being in a familiar place where I expect familiar feelings, but those feelings have now been layered with experiences from cultures where life is more simple.  There are no thoughts of keeping up with Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals or updating my old iPhone to the latest iOS, or being concerned with driving a rental car without my name being on the agreement.  The feelings are more complex and deeper than these examples, but at this point, I can’t quite put it into words. 

Instead, I find myself back at the vineyard in Colombia, a place that felt like home when I arrived again last Thursday.  I was welcomed back by the Doctor, his family and the rest of the girls at the vineyard to celebrate the month long wine festival that began on Saturday… which will be highlighted in future posts. 
View from my "office" at the vineyard

In the meantime, you are all welcome to attend Vid y Vino Internacional (Vine and Wine International), celebrated each Saturday afternoon until January 10th at the ViƱedo de Puntalarga.  Let me know if you can make it!  I’d love to see a familiar face!  

Before I go... a few more from the Huddy Collection

Fun at the Mote Marine Aquarium 

Looking for his wingman

Boy loves his cheese

The End


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