I had to go to my friend Jena (check out her blog. She is a fantastic writer) for advice on today's blog. I had so many ideas and no clue where to begin. Jena's response? I think it just depends on what mood strikes you when you sit down to write. Amen.
For as long as I can remember, my family has been traveling to Ft. Walton Beach, FL every Easter. And when I say family, I do mean- FAMILY. We took over! It used to be that when you pulled up to the gates of the El Matador (the condominiums which we rented), you could say “Carolin” and the guard would just laugh and wave you you through. My Dad, the youngest of seven, has been going there his entire life. It’s a tradition, it’s a memory, it’s an escape. My parents actually met in Ft. Walton when they were both on vacation there. Year later, it would be the location my brother-in-law proposed to my sister, and where my brother and sister-in-law had their honeymoon. So, Ft. Walton is pretty special to me. Unfortunately, I have not been able to go since I was 16, A junior in high school. I did a service trip my senior year, and then my college spring breaks never lined up correctly. So, Ft Walton is slowly becoming a distant memory. That breaks my heart, because for the longest time I could just close my eyes and imagine myself on the beach. It’s tougher for me to do that now. I am distracted by all the memories crushed in between my precious Ft Walton and I.
Here is what I do remember… I remember our usual condo in Building 3, with my mom’s parent’s right across the sidewalk. I remember the smell of the ocean combined with sunscreen and aloe. I remember the palm trees and the pure white snow. I remember the tall white buildings with the red roofs. I remember the Y shaped pool. I remember playing outside in the grassy areas after a day of swimming and mini golf. I remember shrimp sandwiches and raw oysters from the High Tide. I remember my grandpa forcing me to try black butter on my shrimp, saying I was not truly his granddaughter if I didn’t like butter. I remember spending hours in the ocean. I remember my uncle fishing further down the beach. I remember every year looking for my brother’s ninja turtles which he had lost in the sand when he was little. I remember the water park, the souvenir shops, the mall (it had a carousel inside that always amazed me as a kid). I remember being terrified of go Karts…and when my sister’s friends forced me to go on them when I was a little older, I remember crashing. Yes. I crashed. In a go Kart. I remember my sister’s friends then buying me ice cream and one of them hugging me while I cried. I remember Easter mass. Waking up early to find eggs scattered across the condo, putting on an Easter dress and headed to mass, surrounded by aunts, uncles, and cousins. I remember brunch afterwards at Jo and Eddie’s, a kind of dirty little diner that we could never stay away from. They had the best chocolate chip pancakes I have ever had. I remember one very special trip where I drove down with my cousin Patrick and his son, Laurence. That would be the trip that bonded Laurence and I, and I held a very special place in my heart ever since then. I love that kid, may he rest in sweet peace.
I remember, when I got older, that I was allowed to bring friends with me. The first year I brought Jamie and Lindsay. I remember our long walks at night with sunburned cheeks and hoodies, sitting on the boardwalk and laughing at the other teenagers who were drinking. I remember us laughing until we cried every single night before we fell asleep, taking turns who had to sleep on the floor. I remember the car ride with them there and back, and writing down all our inside jokes. The second year, I brought Reena and Megan. My brother was a senior then, so he had quite a few friends with them. Naturally we tried to keep up with them and hang out with them. I remember an epic water fight with them that turned pretty painful. The third year, I brought my friend Staci. I actually don’t remember much from that trip, which is sort of fitting considering our friendship completely, fell apart shortly after that trip. But I remember going shopping one day and finding a Starbucks and we both screamed with joy. I remember how well she got along with my family, how easily she fit right in, and I do remember our long, LONG late night chats. We were really good to each other. What happened I’m still not sure, but I thank Staci for making my last trip to Ft. Walton a good, peaceful, and fun one. I guess I remember more than I thought. Amazing what your mind can do when you just let it be. I miss that place, I miss the family times and happiness it brought. I can’t think of it without thinking of each of my uncles, aunts, grandparents, and cousins whom I spent that week with. I think of my brother and sister and what fun we had annoying each other in the car. I hope, soon, that I can go back and pay it a visit. My special Ft. Walton. Our special Ft. Walton.
Pictured here is the El Matador, our condo place where we rented from. You can see the pool, white sand, palm trees, and grassy areas I was talking about. See the two buildings that are closest together? With just a sidewalk in between them? We were always in the building on the right, first floor, first room on the left. Grandma and Grandpa were right across the sidewalk, first floor, first room on the right.
And here, my friends, is a very short slideshow of my family and I at Ft. Walton. These are more for my own sake than my readers, but enjoy a little glimpse into my favorite vacation spot :) Click on the box below to open the video in a seperate window. Thanks.