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.