We went to Cocoa Beach, Florida in the winter of my Seventh Grade. It was my first, I guess only, school vacation. We went to see my grandparents. I looked out the airplane window into the blue sky and wondered what they would be wearing, these Minnesota farmers. I had never seen either of my grandparents in shorts. Not to mention on vacation.
They picked us up at the airport. He in pants. She in a dress. I hugged them so hard, these new people that we had all to ourselves for the very first time. The same sun that lit them in this new color, jumped into my heart and filled it.
I heard it before I saw it, the ocean. My grandpa stood near the deck of the condo and waved me out to the beach. He was in shadow then as I looked back. But still so tall. So recognizable. And I was old enough to know it wasn’t true, but it felt like this was his, and he was giving it all to me.
I stayed out too long in my newly found gift. My lavender/white skin burned to a crisp and bubbling red. My grandma rubbed me in vinegar and slept on the floor beside me.
Creamed and covered for the next 6 days, they took me to Disney World. Cape Canaveral. The dog track. The outlet mall. This was a once in a lifetime, I thought. Not because of the sites, but because of them. The time. Oh, what a time!
Returning to Central Junior High after the break. Everyone was exchanging vacation stories. Most were fascinated with Janie, the surgeon’s daughter. They had gone skiing. She had the deep dark face tan, but for the goggled area around the eyes. Everyone oooed and aaaaahed. Someone looked at me and said, “I thought you went to Florida.” “I did! I did!” I said in delight. “But you’re not even tan.” No, my burn had peeled away and slipped down the shower drain the night before our return. “It was wonderful!” I continued. But they wanted proof. Evidence. I couldn’t believe they couldn’t see it. My full heart.
Maybe they were ahead of their time. Wanting to see the selfie of the moment. But I knew I had it. I carry the evidence with me daily. Maybe these words are my proof. Maybe not. It doesn’t really matter. Because I know. I know what I had. What I will always have. I look back, and I see him standing there. Smiling. So recognizable, even today. He, they, gave it all.