After almost 20 years in Colorado, I have returned to Florida, land of my birth, source of much of my DNA. I was born in South Florida, as was my Mother, and my maternal grandparents and one set of great-grandparents came to Florida back in the 1920’s. Florida was much different in the 1920’s. Hell, it was much different in the 1960’s, and even in the 1990’s when I returned after a nearly 20 year absence.
At various times in my life, I have been ashamed of Florida. Bush vs. Gore for instance, and that incidence of the “hanging chad” on voters ballots. That isn’ the Florida I knew, although the Florida I knew was racist, a picture perfect snapshot of Old Jim Crow. When I was a small child, my mother had someone in to help with housework. I can’t recall her name, but I know she was the daughter of Rose, who ran the company store where my Dad worked in Bean City. Bean City was a creation of the Billy Rogers farm, where Dad worked and serviced the huge machinery that it took to grow the corn, green beans and celery. He would often bring home fresh cases of whatever vegetable was in season. We took it all for granted, we thought everyone got corn off the cob right out of the field.
Rose had a very prominent gold tooth front and center, wore a bandanna around her head, and was very short and very stout. I sort of remember an accent, so she probably was from the Bahama’s, as many of the black workers around us were. Her daughter used to come help my mother with housekeeping and ironing. This was back in the day when my mother’s house was neat as a pin, so clean you could literally eat off the floor. Later, she devolved into something just this side of a hoarder. I don’t know what caused such a drastic change, but when you are a kid, there is so much that you simply fail to notice.
I know from pictures that my mother was once slim enough for my dad to nearly be able to put his hands around her waist. When she died in 2006, she was way north of 300 pounds. But, above her favorite chair in the double-wide trailer she had, was a picture of her and Dad when she was very slim and very pretty and very trim. I think she wanted to remember those days.
I’ve always had an inferiority complex. Several of my bosses were frustrated by it, and even though I know for sure that I’m smarter than your average Joe, because I’m awkward, because I’m gay,. because I’m from the south, because I only have a high-school education, because ..well, for a lot of reasons, I assume nearly everyone else is better than me at most anything. Even though I have evidence to the contrary, this complex persists.
I did quite well at working, even though it seemed to be all accidental. I went from High School to the Navy. I managed to get myself thrown out of the Navy, albeit with an honorable discharge and all the benefits accorded to a Vietnam Era veteran. I walked into a radio station in a small Tennessee town and asked for a job, and got one, with no experience. I have sold life insurance and installed cable television services and eventually ended up working at the corporate office of the worlds largest cable tv company, being paid far more than I though I was worth, which allowed me to retire far younger than most people can or should.
I’ve visited Bermuda, Spain, The Azores, England, France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Tunisia, Japan and Venezuela. I actually lived in Okinawa for a year, and Venezuela for nearly four years. I lived on Oahu in Hawaii for almost four years. I enjoyed all of it and wouldn’t exchange any of it for anything. Since 1998, I have made Colorado my home. At first, it was a grungy little apartment in Glendale, a suburb of Denver, famous mostly for it’s proliferation of strip bars. I used to come home and find my kitchen crawling with roaches, so I’d spray and drive them to the neighbors. A few days later, he would spray and they would return. Eventually they raised the rent to something pretty unreasonable, and I bought a condo where i lived for a few years until John and I met and we bought a house together.
I spent some time with a jeep, running some of the mountain trails in the Rocky Mountains. I fell in love with the hot springs at Glennwood Springs. I never tired of the mountain views, often snow covered, even into July and early August. I lived in Colorado longer than I ever lived any other place in my life, including the 17 years I spent in Florida before leaving for the Navy. It was as much home as Florida.
The house on Berry Avenue in Centennial closes this coming Friday, the 24th of June. The new owners will take over, and I hope that they appreciate the Iris’s that bloom, the deck we spent tons of money on, and the other little improvements we made over the years. I’m sure they will do things to make it their own place, things we will never know about.
We are now in Florida. I’m not really all the comfortable here in the condo we have had for a few years. There is very little for me to do. I’m not happy just sitting around reading or playing video games or looking across the marvelous view of the lake. I need a bit more. So, we’ll look around for a house, as much as I know that John really would like to just stick with the condo. He is pretending to be enthusiastic, but I know that if I decided we should stay in the condo, he’d be just as happy. I want a yard. A place I can grow things, even if it is just in pots. I want to be able to hang my fishing poles out in the garage. I’d like a pool and a hot tub. I want to be able to putter around and spend my time on little projects that never really amount to much, but make me feel good about having gotten out of bed to do something. I’m sure we’ll find something that we can afford. We’ll hang onto the condo, unless we need to sell it to afford a house, and perhaps we’ll return to it in ten years or so.