Hurricane Irma & Loving Florida

When I was a kid I did not know that growing up in Florida was such a cool gig. I do now. I love that my parents moved from the heartland and farm country of southern Illinois--their home turf, to sunny Florida to settle and expand their family. I arrived at the end of the baby boom, number five of an eventual seven. While I was raised by midwesterners, I learned some important southern ways at the side of my Florida family.

Like Florida's sunny rep-I learned from family and friends how important a sunny disposition is to survival. Not Polly Ana--I'm talking about having an optimism and grit-laced sunny outlook. These characteristics colored my character development in AppleJacked! (No spoiler, but a hurricane subplot will play heavily in Book 3: CrashCourse!) With Hurricane Irma battering the Florida Keys right now and working her way directly toward where I sit, I'm gonna need that grit and optimism. Even my early memories of hurricanes are like that.

Two come to mind. First, evacuating to a motel on Kennedy Blvd right next to the Channel 13 television studios during one storm that swept through during my elementary years. I don't remember her name. Sorry, it was a one night stand. While we were there the neighborhood dads decided to get a poker game going in one of the rooms, leaving the moms to the kids in the cookie-cutter compartments along the exterior hallways of the old-style motel. You've seen these before--parking lot, fenced in swimming pool, then rows of doors and windows alternating along the outside corridor. An occasional ice machine would break up the architecture. So there was my mom in our room with the seven of us and the howling wind and pelting rain. Add in a dose of lightning and thunder for atmosphere, so to speak:) Well, the night wore on. As the wind grew and rain did double-time, the men played on in their poker-induced distraction.

These really were good dads, but hey, the guy-thing must have been a handicap as they just did not "get" the sense of urgency. While the hurricane raised the ante, the moms were pulling mattresses off the double beds to jam up against the doors and picture windows to keep the storm outside. I don't remember being afraid, but that was probably a survival response. The experience and the aftermath helped to build a sense of calm in me to face future storms, and not just those of a weather variety.

After the worst passed, and we had returned home to our horseshoe-shaped street off of Westshore Boulevard, the cleanup began. That is my second hurricane memory. Miraculously, no water got in the house--never has these past fifty+ years. Irma may change that fact--we shall see come Tuesday. Some tree limbs were down, but the four queen palms in our front yard were still standing sentry. Back then, I don't recall if we had boarded up, but I do remember the masking tape.

Before the storm, all the dad's had prepped the windows by layering spider webs of masking tape on every window. Not a window was broken. Must have been some good-dad magic. Us kids got the fun job of pulling it all off and we made huge balls of tape to play with. What can I say, we were easily entertained and had not been stunted by video games.

So as I sit here, waiting for Irma to come knocking, I worry for my friends along the gulf coast further south of here and those who left everything in the Keys. I must thank my parents and Florida friends for the sense of relative calm that has been protectively hovering in my psyche the past few days--that and a hurricane prep plan my husband and I put into action when Irma became a Cat 3 out in the Atlantic on August 30th. So, I know my peeps are all safe. The family home in South Tampa is buttoned up and empty and ready to defy the predicted storm surge of 8+ feet. And as my dear mom would say with her sweet smile, "We shall see."

Comments

  1. Glad things turned out not as bad as most of us feared... XO

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    1. Thanks, same good wishes to you. Just heard that our power will be off 4 more days because the box that needs to be accessed is submerged in a preserve behind our subdivision. Waiting to see if this is fact or fake news. Can only reach TECO thru DM on Twitter.

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