We love living near our grandchildren. Ted and I were about to get dressed for church this morning when that little “dinger” sounded announcing a text message. It was from Jordan and read, “2:08 dance number moved to 1:00”. And our entire morning plan changed.
Jordan dances competitively, and she was scheduled to be in four numbers this morning and two this afternoon (one at 2:08 and one around 5:00) in a huge competition in Daytona Beach. We’d planned to rush home from church, change clothes, and be at the News-Journal Center for the 2:08 number.
We quickly decided to skip church, rush to Daytona, and maybe get there in time to see two of the morning numbers AND the 1:00 number. And that’s what we did.
Sitting in a dark auditorium watching mostly girls (there are a few boys), ages five through high school, dance for literally hours between the dances Jordan was in is something I never could have conceived enjoying even two years ago. Having raised two boys I knew nothing of organized dance and all that is involved (I CAN offer up the exact combination of cleaners guaranteed to get grass stains out of Little League uniforms though). Now I find myself loving all of the pageantry of dance – the costumes, the music, the lights. And of course, our girl . . . who is without a doubt the best – and most beautiful – dancer up there.
The numbness I spoke of a few months ago is slowly giving way to the opening of my heart to this new life we’ve chosen. When I walk in our front door I no longer think I’m just here visiting, and with each addition of a piece of art, or a table, or even a new set of towels, it becomes more and more our home.
I think the thing I’m having the most trouble with is the lack of a yard. My pots of flowers help, but there’s just no area to walk around outside within the boundaries of “our space”. I’m still trying to get past that little negative. A lot of people have said, “But just think, there’s nothing you have to mow or weed or spray for bugs. True. But there’s also no place for Bear and Maddie to romp, or for a party of folks to hang out. The fact that water lies just beyond our back door – water where fish jump and manatees swim and pelicans and diving ducks have dinner each day – will eventually get me past the lack of grass. I think. I hope.
Meeting others going through the same adjustments is also helping. On Saturday, while working at the Flagler Humane Society tent at United Methodist Church’s Spring Festival, I struck up a conversation with another volunteer. She and her husband just moved here from Colorado (95% of the people we’ve met are NOT from Florida but from somewhere else). Like me, she was reaching out by volunteering with organizations she holds dear, and we also chatted about and compared the various churches we’d visited. How better to find like-minded people who just may one day be close friends? As we talked away the beautiful day, surrounded by animal lovers, I thought about how many others there are here in this little beach town who are just like me – new to the area, but searching for a way to become part of this community. Flagler and Beverly Beaches have remained so unchanged for so many years, and that “sameness” seems to be drawing more and more people here – away from the miles of tall, elaborate oceanfront condos. I believe people are looking for a simpler life, especially people our age.
One realization has helped more than any other, I think. I’ve finally figured out I’m not trading in the first 65 years of my life for this one, and I’m not betraying those other places and people I love by loving another place and other people. I know that each Spring I’m going to long to be back at the ri’vah to glory in the budding trees and blooming azaleas, and I can go back any time I like. I know that each May I’m going to think it’s time to pack up and head north, but I can wait until June or August or September or whenever we choose to go to the island. I know that friends from both places will be waiting, and I know that many will have visited us here.
I read somewhere this week that just as the pyramids were built as monuments to honor the pharaohs, our memories are built as monuments to honor each person and place that has touched us in some special way. I like that a lot. And the advantage we have is we don’t have to travel anywhere to access those monuments. All we have to do is close our eyes and let those special people and places dance across the backs of our eyelids.
So – with each new day, each new addition to the house, each new venture across the street to watch the waves wash in and the seabirds soar overhead, and with each new neighbor who moves in – the heart beating inside my chest becomes a little less stone and a lot more soft and pliable – like clay.
It feels good to feel again.
Personal Note: A big thank you to Greg Main for the beautiful header photo!