When I was roughly eight or nine years old my family sort of adopted an elderly man in our ward. He was the sweetest guy, that Brother Dorough – when I picture him I think of soft white hair and deep creases around shining eyes. Basically the epitome of a jolly grandpa complete with a cane he liked to shake at people. He had sass, so we got along just swell.
One evening after dinner he pointed at the house numbers on our home and said “1936…that’s the year I lost my thumb!” and commenced to scar me for life by waving his mangled hand in my face. After that I always pictured blood and guts whenever I told people where I lived. Slightly morbid, no? But a surprisingly effective way to memorize my address. It was pretty much burned into the back of my eyelids.
This past spring my family decided that we had better take one last vacation with the whole clan before my brother leaves on his mission. (Speaking of his departure date…it’s two weeks from today. Don’t mention it if you see me. I am pretty much a chasm of ugly emotions about it right now. My eyes seem to be constantly springing leaks.)
When planning a destination, it seemed appropriate that we would venture back to the good ol’ South and visit 1936 Tangled Vine Drive. Florida kind of raised me, you know? My memories consist of throwing rocks at lazy alligators, swimming for the Meadow Pointe Manta Rays and dancing with my mom and siblings in the afternoon downpours. Humidity, yellow sun and chlorinated water combined to produce a freckle-faced, wild-eyed girl with an overly healthy imagination and an intense love for books. The Sunshine State did well by me.
So one saturday in the heat of July my family all departed from various airports around the U.S. and flew into Orlando. We spent a wonderful week at Summer Bay Resort where we slept-in, barbecued, swigged pool-side pina coladas and played intense rounds of catch-phrase.
We made it down to Tampa one day and managed to take a few pictures outside of our old home and visit some dear family friends. That afternoon we all stood and looked at the pond where the alligator we affectionally nick-named “Bubbles” used to hang out. I remembered that one time I broke my arm flipping a Razor scooter and laughed about how bad-a I thought my cast was. I’m pretty sure I always picked blue so it would match my middle school pep rally t-shirt. Apparently I have always been a little OCD.
One of the absolute highlights of the trip was visiting Harry Potter World at Universal Studios. From the Hogwarts castle, to the Hogsmeade shops (think Dervish and Bangs, Ollivander’s, Honeydukes and more!!) to trying cornish pasties and butterbeer at The Three Broomsticks, I was quite literally in nerd nirvana. If you know me at all you are well aware that I am secretly a little distraught that I will never actually be a legit Hogwarts-trained witch. I should probably be ashamed that I am admitting this to the vast internet, but I most definitely bought a wand at Ollivander’s. I mean really, can you blame me? Afterwards I may have spent the rest of the night trying to “accio” various items from across the room. Ryan was appalled, I was delighted.
On the whole it was a little bittersweet to realize that this was our last family vacation with just “us”. Babies and spouses and crazies will all more than likely be added in the two years that Brent is away; I’m so glad we got the chance to go together before everything changes. While I was certainly excited to go back, I didn’t anticipate just how much like home Florida would feel. Those moss-draped trees and slow ponds sure rooted themselves pretty deep in this wanna-be southern girl’s heart.