Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Journal

This is the favorite book of a man who rarely reads but has had a book dedicated to him.  The chapters are similar, the dates, save for the year, are often the same, and much of the content is repetitive.  He will not read it, but prefers to experience it with his eyes closed.  He is like a child in that he never tires of the predictable story line.

It is ten years old now, started its life in Florence, Italy, and the rich blue leather blank book found its way to a Tuesday Morning store in southern Georgia.  I wrote the book the man had dedicated to him, and I am writing still this travel journal, the book he loves most.  This started out as a planning book, lists and an itinerary inked inside, of a family trip to St. Augustine, Florida.  It evolved into the minutiae of mini-vacations I wrote solely, so I thought, for my own pleasure.  

I do not remember when he first asked what I was writing, and I thought he'd be bored with the tedium of the content, but he was mesmerized.  A tradition evolved.  Each trip I'd write, and at some point I'd read to him the entry from the last trip.  

Entry photographed is from September 2013, an anniversary trip

I'm a collector of paper flotsam and jetsam, and those mementos, precious to no one but me and the man sometimes find their way into The Journal.  It has gotten to the point now, in June around my birthday, in September around our anniversary, or in December, just before Christmas, he asks if I remembered to bring The Journal.  

There was a trip two years ago I forgot it, but improvised on scrapbook paper of water and sand and taped those on the pages which would have been written on.

I think of this book's future, into whose hands it might fall, and who would care that in 2004 my older son pinched his brother's nose to the point it left a bruise or in 2008 I bought Pat Conroy's cookbook from Barnes and Noble? My baby boy, I think, might treasure it.  My older son, the less sentimental of the two, might sooner pitch it in the trash.  Would a St. Augustine historian be interested in what non-locals did and thought in their fair town?  

Who knows?  And here are a few excerpts from our last trip:  

June 23, 2014

Rick's surprise birthday gift to me was a two night stay on the top floor of The Edgewater.  Same beautiful view, elevated.  The St. Augustine shopping bug was satisfied as soon as we rolled into town.  Kenneth Cole sandals, Bath and Body White Citrus scented bath products, and a classic book of American short stories from Barnes and Noble.  We usually approach the island by way of the Bridge of Lions, but today we crossed the Mickler-O'Connell Bridge. When we first came into town, I spotted a roseate spoonbill in the marsh on the right side of Florida 16.

a Great Blue Heron photographed on my birthday
I cracked a joke about needing a sherpa to carry our "necessary" vacation items up to Room 201.  Zero gravity loungers, large camera bag, iPad bag, book bag, three days wardrobe for two...we don't exactly travel light, but these things are used and enjoyed.  Beach bag, suitcase, cosmetic case...  We quickly moved in, though, years of practice, then took a walk in a light rain, across the Bridge of Lions to the St. Augustine Municipal Marina to get a closer look at the El Galeon, a replica of a Spanish galleon.  We declined a tour at $40 for both of us (and later a trolley ghost tour $51 and a carriage ride $80) perhaps that demonstrates we are truly in love with this town, not the touristy element, or we're just cheap.  :-)  

I had a blue umbrella, Rick had a rainbow colored one and he wanted to trade with me so no one would think he was a lesbian.  It was hot and muggy and we were sweating through our shirts, but we didn't care.  We walked from the marina to downtown, St. George St., emerged from Fort Alley to S. Castillo Drive to Avenides Menendez overlooking the bay front to the Bridge of Lions to "home."  

Back at the room, we freshened up, then drove downtown to Pizzalley's.  We shared a small "garbage can" pizza and a side of their wonderful steamed vegetables, served in the Chianti room by a nice waiter named Steve.  Having lived with a man for nearly 28 years and raised two, I know that little boys always reside within.  The little boy in the man who took me to dinner on my birthday eve wanted ice cream for dessert, so we walked to Kilwin's and got a waffle "bowl" with two scoops of sea salted caramel.  We faced each other, straddling a bench on St. George St., and not caring at all what we looked like, we shared like lovers.  

Window shopping, we saw hilarious in-your-face messages screenprinted on T-shirts and texted them to our four kids and Trinni.  There were singers and guitarists on a side street, looked to be in our age range, quite good enough to perform in paying venues, filling the night air with songs that took us to coming of age phases of our lives, the '70s.  

When we returned to our roost, we sat on the balcony; Rick lounged and I rocked and read us a sweet bedtime story about a family of four, with two young teenagers, and the things they did on a mini-vacation to St. Augustine.  At one point, I looked up and saw tears in blue eyes set in the crinkles of time. 

June 24, 2014

4 P.M.  On the balcony at The Edgewater after a sunny morning on the beach and an early afternoon lunch at O'Steen's.  It clouded up and sprinkled, wouldn't be my birthday without at least a little rain, and it's clearing again, very typical Florida weather.  What a luxurious pleasure, spending the prettiest part of my birthday on the beach, then being treated to shrimp for lunch.  The ocean temperature was just perfect.  Rick and I pretended to waltz in the ocean, then he joked and "dipped" me.  Of growing older, it happens on the exterior, but the interior feels much the same as when we fell in love over 30 years ago.  Serenely seasoned we are, and the love in his water blue eyes is an astonishingly undeserved gift, a daily reminder of the goodness of the Lord.

He's asleep next to me now, clutching his binoculars.  He comes to St. Augustine to look--at how the morning light shines on the buildings across the bay, at ospreys, and all manner of air and water craft.  The sight of families playing together warms his heart.  While we were standing in the Atlantic Ocean, Rick remarked how wonderful it was that all these people, he gestured toward the beach, could be here to enjoy this day.  He hoped they all were happy and I added that those who were not were surely being healed.  I walked out of the ocean today as whole as I've been in a very long time, thanks be to God.  There is an ache, ever slight, of our children now living across the country from us in Colorado, but balm and salve were both applied as both of them have contacted me today to wish me birthday happiness and to express their delight in where their parents are, a refueling station of a calm, inner joy in living.

June 25, 2014

We're at the beach again.  We'll have to ride home sandy, but how could we be this close to Vilano Beach and not go?  I walked into the ocean and promptly it sat me down, feet in the air in a V.  It had to be a funny sight, a 51-year-old woman with a floppy straw hat, Jackie O style sunglasses, and a two-piece polka dot Catalina tummy control swim suit.  Rick missed the ocean's prank and thought I had sat in it intentionally.  Many more people here today than yesterday.  

A gentleman, maybe a little older than Rick, stopped to chat with us after his bulldog greeted us first.  He was a local who'd moved there from Indiana.  His dog's birthday was September 11, and we shared our September 11 stories.  He was in Jacksonville on a jet which never made it off the ground.  He remarked this country was not the one he grew up in.  Rick cupped his hand into a bowl and refreshed the dog with spring water.  The man told us he'd recently had an automobile accident and suffered a concussion.  He looked well, but it was easy to tell the experience had shaken him emotionally as well and that he was grateful to be on the beach, alive, and walking his beloved dog.  

He told us his mother still lived in Indiana and there were many instantly understood but unspoken sentiments shared when I told him we had buried all our parents.  Rick spoke of his father giving airplane rides on American Beach, and the thrill of experiencing the landing of a small craft on the sand.  It was an era as bygone as the state of our nation the man knew long ago, and such is the nature of stories told by people with white hair atop their heads.

The man walked on to the rest of his life, leaving us to ours a bit richer for the ten minute friendship.  I envied him in the nicest way getting to live our dream life near the coast, and with no mention of a spouse or significant other or children, no sign that a wedding band had been on his evenly tanned hand, he may well have felt the same, with maturity giving us all gratitude for what had gone well in our respective lives.  

We bathed in the ocean once more, believing with hope we'd get to do it all again, then we reluctantly packed our chairs and memories into the Explorer.  Once we were far enough out of town it would not be feasible to turn back, we were happy to be headed home.