Archives for February 2014

sunshine, silence and oranges

One of my oldest, closest friends of all time lives on the opposite coast. From time to time, she’ll text me a picture of a view from her “happy place,” a gorgeous point overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It’s serene, it’s peaceful, it’s everything a place to re-center should be. For a half a second one fairly recent day when I read her text letting me know she was there, I got to thinking that I didn’t have a “happy place” of my own, and just as quickly as I thought that, I forgot about it.

Fast forward a few weeks later to the beginning of a snow storm. If you know me, you know how I feel about fall and winter. I’ll spare you my rant. The closer to the sun I can get, the better. As the snowflakes began to fall and we headed deeper into yet another snow day, I told my husband the highlight reel of childhood winter escapes to Florida: wind chimes sounding like daytime lullabies paired with the whirl of bike tires, warm air all around, palm trees swaying above me, the sun on my back, in my eyes, hours in the pool – and the smell of oranges. Lots of oranges.

I guess I was convincing – (did I get you?) – that coupled with the man being a spontaneous optimist, ready for adventure at all times. On top of  that, we got news that my grandma, a New Jersey ex-pat who’s been soaking up Florida’s rays since 1984, was hospitalized. That was 11:30 am. By 2:00 pm, our family of 5 (Gwen sporting her beach cover-up) was packed and heading south. We drove all night, taking turns on and off at the wheel, and working on our laptops (working remotely has major perks!) Every hundred miles or so, the temperature jumped up about 2 degrees. After months of cold weather, topped off by a hideous “polar vortex,” that was a glorious sight.

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We had a blast that week, our family of five. We played in the aqua water, collected seashells, jumped in the pool, dipped in a hot tub, rode bikes on the beach and counted stars from the boardwalk. My girls learned that “jungle trees” are really called palm trees. They soaked up sun they hadn’t felt on their skin in months. My babies played with their cousin for hours, and bonded with their great-grandma, great-aunt and great-uncle. Their aunt took them on “safari” in an electric golf cart, dodging through palmettos and under towering pine trees.

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On our last day in Florida, I hopped the fence behind my grandma’s property and found a clearing between two trees into the orange groves that back up to her 5 acres. My grandfather, who we lost in March of 2013, introduced me this orange grove when I was just 13.  As I stood there 20 years later, alone, listening to nothing, overwhelmed with gratitude for sun and overtaken with the smell of these ripening oranges, time folded in on itself and stopped. This place wanted me to remember it. How could I forget my “happy place,” the place where I did nothing else but admire the beauty around me, freeing me from the responsibility of all other thoughts? Easily. I’ve been too wrapped up in life to remember. Since I last visited, I’ve graduated college, grad school, started a career, got married, lost my father, three grandparents, had three babies, moved five times…I’ve been living, and living fast. We all are.

So much life stands between me and that 13 year old girl – so much learned, lost and infinitely gained. If I could whisper in her ear, I’d remind her of what I tell my kids, (who you may see sniffing flowers whenever they have the chance): stop and smell the flowers (or the orange blossoms). All of them.