Friday, October 21, 2016

Untold Story #20: Yoder's and Siesta Key

When my brother and I were kids, Aunt Ellie bought him a copy of Harold and the Purple Crayon. It was his favorite, and it was one of my favorites, too. It's a little story I carry with me, and I thought of it while we were in Sarasota, because...pie. I bought two pies (Florida Key Lime and Peanut Butter Cream) from Yoder's Amish Restaurant, and we ate pie, sea-side, for dinner. That's all: just pie. There were eight of us, and we ate a lot of pie, but there was pie left over (and neither a moose nor a porcupine in sight), so we asked a couple near us if they'd like to have the rest. They were so excited. They promised not to waste a bit, but instead, to pass on any leftover pie.

Cade looked at me and whispered: "Mom. That was awesome."

Siesta Key was more populated than Honeymoon Island had been the night before, and Cade and Sam sort of took off to do their own thing. But then they came back jogging, panting a bit, pointing, talking excitedly. Evidently, down (up?) from the rest of us, an aggregation of manatees had swum through. Nearby swimmers had been cautious, at first, not knowing the source of the activity, but they relaxed upon realizing it was manatees. Cade and Sam had swum out and with the manatees, actually touching them. What an unexpected delight.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Untold Story #19: Unconditional Surrender

While we were in Sarasota, I hopped out of the minivan to photograph J. Seward Johnson's Unconditional Surrender sculpture. I had read that some Sarasota locals disapprove of it, thinking it kitschy, but of course, I love kitschy, also J. Seward Johnson's The Awakening sculpture at National Harbor.

The words on the sign:

The profound joy portrayed in this sculpture was prompted by the spontaneous surrender of the Japanese, thus ending World War II on August 14, 1945. Among the celebrants in Times Square in New York City were a United States sailor and a nurse embracing amidst the multitude of joy makers.

The merriment expressed the pride and relief of the military and the home front to have been part of this great victory despite the eleven years of unemployment and the hardships of the Great Depression; four years of horrific war; losing loved ones; the rationing of food and gasoline and the war production duties endured by the home front. This group is called the "Greatest Generation," which is a title they well deserve.

This celebrated moment in the history of our nation prompted preeminent American sculptor J. Seward Johnson to create this sculpture, which he named "Unconditional Surrender." After several years of intensive efforts, a proud veteran of World War II, Jack Curran, bought the sculpture, and with the outstanding support given by various Sarasota County veterans associations, he was able to donate the statue to the City of Sarasota.

The presence of this sculpture prompts viewers to never forget the "Greatest Generation" or the day when they demonstrated their "Unity"--August 14. 1945.

Of course, there's more than one side to every story. I photographed the sculpture in June, and in September, Greta Zimmer Friedman--the woman portrayed in Johnson's sculpture (and initially captured in photographs)--died. She'd been twenty-one in 1945. She'd been wearing a nurse's uniform but had been working as a dental assistant. When the news of Japanese surrender was announced, George Mendonsa--a sailor and stranger to Friedman--had grabbed and kissed her. Mendonsa's girlfriend (an actual nurse) had looked on and smiled (source).

In an interview for the Library of Congress, Friedman said to Patricia Redmond: “It wasn't my choice to be kissed. The guy just came over and grabbed!” (source). Friedman's son said his mother had understood why some perceive this to be an account of public assault, but that she hadn't necessarily seen it that way (source). Of course, times were different, then: impetuous celebration more commonplace (source)

It's been thought-provoking to revisit my photos of this sculpture, these last couple consider it in light of Donald Trump's words from eleven years ago. I don't mean to beat a dead horse, but--whether or not Michelle Obama was sincere when she said she hasn't been able to stop thinking about them--I am sincere when I say it.

I spoke with a friend over the weekend, a woman a little older than I, who talked nonchalantly about having been groped herself...and about her plans to vote for Trump regardless of what he said (or, in my opinion, confessed to have done). She's not the only woman in my life who intends to vote for Trump, next month. Their decision is baffling to me; yet, even as I write this, I feel convicted because I know I'd disregarded many of Trump's ugly words before they triggered me, personally.

Is that what it all comes down to? Are words only offensive if one is offended by them? Is assault only assault if one is outraged or traumatized by it? I've had similar thoughts, before, as related to abortion; it seems like the value (or type of value) placed upon a fetus/baby lies only in a person's perception of it. (Read my thoughts on abortion, here.) All of it is confusing to me. Is there a line? Is there a standard?

I want to believe yes...and Jesus. The trouble is: not everyone believes in Jesus. We have freedom of and from religion here. Isn't that part of what's supposed to make America great? And not everyone who believes in Jesus believes the same things of Him. Since I've announced my intention to vote for Gary Johnson, I've been shamed by Republicans, Democrats, friends, brothers and sisters in Christ.

Where is the fair intersection between religion and politics? I've puzzled over this before, and I'm still puzzling. I'm still here, my heart feeling heavy as a rock inside my chest. What does it mean to be a true patriot? All I know is: if it comes down to thinking and praying and caring (obsessing), I've arrived.

The Girls at J. Seward Johnson's The Awakening, 2015

Untold Story #18: Ringling Estate

On our second day in Florida, we visited the Ringling Estate in Sarasota, and my greatest regret is that I didn't photograph the outsides of the buildings, as the photos I took don't prove the stateliness of the place. Cade and Sam visited the Museum of Art; the rest of us opted to tour the Circus Museum and (some of the) Bayfront Gardens only.

Howard Bros. Circus Model

Interactive Galleries

Along the Midway

Flower Pounding at the Museum 

Flower Pounding at the Museum

Banyan trees. I was reading, today, that oral history indicates that
Thomas Edison gifted thirteen banyans to John Ringling in the 1920's.

Ringling Burial Site

The Ringling Estate is way more sophisticated than I'd expected. I'm glad we visited and would like to return when my little ones are older.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Untold Story #17: Florida, Day One

Finally, we made it to Erin's house in St. Petersburg. On our first full day in Florida, we headed toward Weeki Wachee Springs State Park. More about Weeki Wachee, later, but this park had been on my bucket list ever since Kelle Hampton had blogged about the extent that I'd said to Jim: "Whatever about Disney! I just want to go to Weeki Wachee!"

In route to Weeki Wachee, we stopped at Al Anderson Park in Tarpon Springs to find a series of five letterboxes called the "Fairy Tale Trail." Again, we'd failed to find the letterbox in Yemassee, so this was the first successful letterboxing adventure for most of the kids. (Cade, Chip, and I had actually found a letterbox in Hardeesville, South Carolina the day before, but the girls had been freaked out by all the alligator-warning signs so had opted to wait in the minivan with Sam. My mama eyes had been busy looking for alligators, and I hadn't taken any photos.)

After our letterboxing adventure, we headed on to Weeki Wachee. It was a long way; traffic was terrible; and when we arrived, we were disappointed to learn: the park had filled to capacity and was closed to new arrivals. The men at the entrance suggested we try again in a couple hours, so we ate lunch, did some thrift shopping, and basically wasted time...only to find, a couple hours later: the park was still too full for us.

At this point, we switched gears, winding up on Honeymoon Island. The kids were so happy to get out of the vehicles, and it was a gorgeous evening in an stunningly beautiful place. You'll have to forgive the overabundance of photos; I've sat here and cried, going through them. 

I don't know what it's like to be you, inside your head, but inside my head, moments of complete peace--of feeling like I'm exactly where I'm meant to be, doing exactly what I'm supposed to be doing--are both rare and fleeting. Honeymoon Island (and the following morning) were moments like that for me. I didn't have others while we were in Florida. That isn't to say I didn't enjoy the rest of our time, but I didn't enjoy it as fully. It's not even worth going into, but I allowed my mind to become troubled.

It was a pity, because the time was given to me, and I knew that from the outset. Erin's husband (whom I like very much) was out of town over the very three days I had to be there; it was just us long-time girlfriends and the kids. So special.

I'll say, too: I feel my deficiencies as a mom every ding-dang day, but in these moments, I felt in my spirit as if I'd done it: as if I were being the best mom I can be. There are so many things I can't do, or won't, but I sure as h-e-double-matchsticks will load my van up with five kids and drive two days to a friendly beach...a beach unlike the one near home...a beach where the waters are clear and the waves are gentle. No clinging, hovering mom required. Priceless.

We'd found this teapot while thrift shopping earlier in the day, and the kids filled it with shells.
I see it on the porch every day and remember Honeymoon Island.

So, Sam has this odd knack for finding things with his toes...

Every now and then, an "arm" would shoot out, and everyone would squeal.

Back at Erin's, everyone bathed/showered (Chip in the kitchen sink); ate; and conked out. The next morning, Chip and I opened and locked eyes. Facing me on the air mattress where we'd been sleeping, he smiled and said sleepily: "Thank you, Mama. Thank you for bringing me to the beach." And I thought, again: I've done the right thing, coming here, and it's already been worth it.