Monday, February 6, 2012


On a cold day in February when I was eight-years-old my family packed the car up and we started the twenty-two hour drive starting in Providence and ending at Tampa, Florida. The plan was to visit my 90-year-old great-grandmother.

The car ride was memorable due to the special torture we all went through. The tediousness of the length of the drive and monotonous pace at which the we drove. The cramped car was full of baggage, toys and whining children. There were seven of us in that vehicle trying to survive  At one point I did fall asleep, it was the restless sleep one experiences when trying to sleep in an awkward place, such as a small seat in an overly warm car. I remember waking up periodically thinking inanely that my feet felt heavy and warm.

My first glimpse of Florida was in the early hours of the morning. We had pulled up to a run-down gas station silhouetted against the backlight of a pink and orange sunrise. Palm trees stood solidly amid the brush just beyond the building. It felt like I was waking up to a new world; as if I was born right there on the pavement, in the weak light of the sun. I stretched and tested my weak legs.

Pier at Sutherland Crossing
The trip was composed of the delight of staying in a nice place that was so unlike our own house. The awkwardness of meeting our cold, stone-faced great-grandmother for the first time in person. The underwhelming experience of Disney World, full of long lines with disappointing ends. And the small thrill of seeing a stingray and blow fish just out of reach of our fingers' touch.

I had no real expectations about Tampa when we first went down there, that is probably why it has become something akin to home for me not at all a place full of disappointment. I never envision sunny, pristine beaches or glorious vistas when I think of Tampa. It may sound depressing that I think of rundown buildings, sterile 'modern' apartments full of elderly residents, scraggly palm trees and hot weather when I think of my trip, and subsequent trips thereafter, but to me that is just the perfect image.

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