Earlier in September, everyone rendezvoused in Sarasota for a family vacation. My mom, Leslie and the kids went down on Saturday so they could take their time settling in. There were beds to arrange, suitcases to unpack and wine to purchase. Meanwhile, my dad and I caught a Tampa bound flight late Tuesday. With weather delays and the hour drive south, we got in well after midnight. It wasn’t until Wednesday morning that I made a formal appearance. Olivia and Anders were in their jammies watching Wonder Pets and building magnet towers. My mom was stirring together the ingredients for blueberry muffins, Leslie was online shopping for shoes and my dad was in the shower.
“Hi guys,” I announced as I shuffled into the kitchen to pour a bowl of cereal.
Upon hearing my voice, Anders popped up and came over to me.
“Hi Aunt Paige,” he said with a flat handed wave. “Did you come from Filthadelphia?”
“Um, yup,” I answered without bothering to correct him. I mean let’s be honest, the name isn’t that inaccurate. Drive into North Philly and you’d know exactly what I’m talking about. On second thought, don’t do it. You might get shot.
Anyway, as the days passed, we did typical Sarasota things. Like we went to Jungle Gardens and snapped pictures of us each holding parrots and alligators and offering handfuls of nibble to ravenous flamingoes. And we sat outside at Columbia and sipped Sangria while feeding the alcohol soaked fruit to the tykes. Listen, it was almost nap time and they were getting cranky. Drunken orange slices were our only hope for temporary sedation.
After activity laden days and lazy sleepy nights, I got myself together to depart. I tucked the summer items I was leaving behind into the bottom drawer of the dresser in the guest room. I dropped my damp towel in the washing machine before fetching my previously purchased white peach from the fridge. With everything taken care of, I made the rounds to say my goodbyes.
“Can I have a hug?” I pleaded from Anders.
“Are you going back to Floridelphia?” he asked as he walked into my open arms.
A couple of weeks later, I was on the phone with Leslie trying to figure out a possible last minute visit. I wasn’t sure if I could swing the airfare and she wasn’t sure if she could swing the dates. When I rang her cell, she forewarned me she was a tad preoccupied. I might have been sitting at my desk but she was in the bleachers with Olivia watching Anders play t-ball.
“Is that Livvy yapping?” I interrupted with a giddy smile.
“Yup. Olivia, say hi to Aunt Paige,” she instructed.
“Hi Aunt Pay. Look at my sticker!”
“Hey Dingleberry,” Leslie said with a chuckle as she brought the cell back to her ear. “Aunt Pay is on the phone. She can’t see it. See Paige, this is what you’re missing by not being here.”
Oh how I adore and maybe even envy such innocence. To know no better than the minimal. To lack cynicism and bitterness and common sense. No matter how much you twist it, no matter how you argue otherwise, innocence is bliss.