Girls Trip to Florida

four days ago, i was on a beach.

mind boggled.

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but it’s true. see. it’s irrefutable.

i’ve told you how this story began. for christmas, my sister had the idea to surprise my grandma with a trip to florida. my grandma (bonnie) was as shocked as she was apprehensive, she could count the number of times she’s been on a plane on one hand.

add that to the emotions of my sister leaving her daughter for the first time, and the nervous flyer anxiety my mom brought to the table,  coupes with a feisty bonnie and i was going to give us a gold star if we made it to florida. it took us a few cocktails but we did. all of us. a girls trip.

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we grew up going to clearwater beach every spring break so we knew exactly where to go and what to eat. it felt so familiar even though i hadn’t been there in more than a decade.

the first day, we headed to our favorite spot frenchy’s. we loaded up on fried grouper, mahi mahi tacos, smoked fish dip and coconut shrimp. we also learned that grandma only liked tilapia or one walleye dish at a restaurant in our hometown. she also wanted a baked potato. which wasn’t on a menu in town.

i ordered another cocktail.

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we headed to crabby bill’s that evening for more fish. and you could taste how fresh it was – like it had just been caught that day. i was in heaven.

my grandma wanted “american food”. which is not, apparently what seafood is.

brother who lives in tampa, joined us the next day. we decided we had better go safe for bonnie, and though it not be “american food” – at least it was pizza. and dare say my most favorite pizza. post corners pizza. then we headed back tot he hotel for a night of lots of laughter, the kind you can only have when your heart is settled and breathing’s easy.

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none of these places are “good” restaurants and they won’t win any awards and they can’t rival the dishes at the top restaurants in chicago. but they brought with them nostalgia, nostalgia for a time when everything was simpler. everything was easier. a time when i was free-er. when life was about what i wanted to do, and what i could do was – anything. and so these restaurants will always be some of my very favorites.

it was also one of those rare times when i got to spend uninterrupted time with my mom, grandma, sister and brother. i don’t get to spend a lot of time with my brother and sister at the same time. we have jobs and kids and significant others and commitments. it was nice to see my sister relax and just stop for a minute. i think and i hope she realized she needs to do that more often, she deserves to. and as for my brother, well – i think he’s learning as he sets out on his own, how precious family is, but how very proud of him we are.

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it is one of those trips that i know i’ll always cherish. whether i like it or not, these moments are getting rarer. every morning my mom, sister and i would go for a walk on the beach. we’d talk about anything and everything, and then we would be quiet and take it all in. and as i get older and meet new people and make new friendships, venturing out in the big city, the familiarity and peace and not needing to say or do anything and the freedom in knowing i don’t have to pretend, i can be just who i am, well – that’s the brass ring. and during those walks, as calming as the waves crashing on the shore and the sounds of seagulls overhead were, just walking side by side – it’s what happiness feels like to me.

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i admire these women so much, in many ways i want to take pieces of them and implant them in myself so i can be more like them. love more like them. live more like them. although they might be finicky eaters and worry warts and we might have bickered, just once – it was four days i’ll always hold close.

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