Home. Drive.

I grew up on the First Coast. My family still lives there. I don’t. Yes, I miss it. I even miss the sweltering summers, though the heat we meet with every summer should have cured me by now. We came down in tropical storm Debby two years ago; and while we were there, the water stopped running at my parents’ house. Ironic that. The roads were flooding, and we couldn’t flush a toilet. But that got fixed, and then my sister’s boyfriend had the nerve to show up. (I guess I should add that his plans to visit had been made before we jumped in the car and sped down there, but I really don’t think that’s important—we were there first.) Nobody kicked us out of the house or anything, but my sister was there, and my 91-year-old grandmother was there, and my mom and dad were there (being their house and all). Then the boyfriend arrived.

By ABC Television (eBay item photo front photo back) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Stuffing our Cunningham family of five into the house was a bit much, we thought. So we asked folks in the congregation there if we could bunk at someone’s house for a couple of days. Seriously, there is nothing like having church family! You get all up in each other’s business and aggravate one another to no end, and, somehow, you can’t get enough of ‘em.

The couple who took us in must feel the same way about us because they didn’t mind telling us, “You guys can stay here or not, we just wanted to keep the kids.” My husband and I felt we could accommodate them and promptly made plans to spend a night in St. Augustine, which happens to be my absolute favorite place to wander around. Realm picked the place we stayed. While it wasn’t solely based on what we were having for breakfast, he admitted that was a big factor in the decision-making process. The style of our room was ‘vintage,’ quaint and lovely, and I had a delightful assortment of hot teas to choose from in the morning. The breakfast was hearty. Our host shared his recipes and experiences, which had me wishing I ran a bed and breakfast—a wish that is rekindled every time I stay in one. I was very pleased.

Then we went all around the city, wherever I wanted to go. I almost killed Realm because I had him trekking in direct sunlight halfway up the boulevard and back. He came close to having sunstroke, I think. He became increasingly nauseated while I was paying for my raspberry sorbetto, handed me the keys, and got out two words: “Home. Drive.”

Advice to St. Augustine tourists: The Old City should be taken in doses and not in the midday heat. The locals know a siesta is more than just about a nap. You’d think that, as many times as I’ve been there, I’d heed my own advice, but I become too giddy with the adventure of scouring the city again for more tidbits of history.

It ended up being a refreshing visit to Florida after Realm recovered. And when it was time to leave, I toted out my suitcase to find a go-kart strapped to the top of our minivan. (We stored a go-kart in my dad’s shed when we moved from Florida.)

Yes, that's me on the go-kart before we moved. As you can see by the lack of glaring sun and my bulky sweater, it's a typical Florida winter.
Yes, that’s me on the go-kart before we moved. As you can see by the lack of glaring sun and my bulky sweater, it’s a typical Florida winter.

Now, I love go-karting. It releases some crazy, competitive monster in me when I race around a track breathing in oil fumes and tire particles. But it’s just not the same feeling, the wind whipping the bungee cords and ratcheted straps of the go-kart tied to the roof of the van. As though it wasn’t enough that Realm drives like a maniac, we were perfect targets for any annoyed driver who wished to pinpoint our location by satellite throughout our trip.

About two hours into the drive, Realm began to regret his great idea:

“We are getting terrible gas mileage.”

“Oh, really? You should see the stares we’re getting from the drivers we’re passing.”

“We aren’t getting any stares.”

“No? Try slowing down and driving in the right-hand lane for a while.”

My backseat driver sarcasm didn’t faze him. Early on in our marriage, he dubbed me “The Naggravator.” Besides, he was too busy scouting out a semi to draft behind.

And you know what? I’m missing Florida again. I guess it’s time to “Home. Drive.”

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Of Bugs, Birds, and Beauty

It’s firefly season. My girls go out at night to collect as many as they can. The glass jar with holes in the lid swarms with them. They flicker in the jar, their vibrant, yellow-green glow like fire in the glass. Then it’s time to let them go.

But they don’t want to let them go.

Photo courtesy of hortongrou
Photo courtesy of hortongrou

Another little girl tries pick up a firefly lying on the grass. She pinches it between her fingers. “I do this all the time,” she says. “I know how.” The poor little bug can’t fly anymore because she’s handled it so many times.

At the zoo there is an exhibit for the parakeets, those gorgeous, little tropical birds. Their feathers are bright and shimmer in the sunlight: yellow, orange, red, blue, and green. My girls and I feed them with seeds stuck to Popsicle sticks. The birds land right on the stick, or, if you hold really still, they’ll perch on your hand!

I watch as the little kids squirm to stay still, waiting patiently for the parakeets to land on their Popsicle sticks. The brilliantly-feathered birds flock to the seeds, flapping around our heads and shoulders. My daughter beams when they land on her hand. She doesn’t say a word, just basks in the novelty of the flighty little creatures settling on her like she’s a familiar friend.

She loves them. She can’t get enough of them. I mean, she really can’t get enough of them! She reaches out and seizes one of the birds in her fist. I gasp, horrified! She’s squeezing it in her palm to hold it down so it won’t escape! Is my daughter Elmyra?

I’m sure the bird will be scared and squawk. It isn’t; it doesn’t. It slips out of her grip, flies away, and swoops back down for more seeds. Next to me, another kid is trying the same tactic—the pounce and pin, I call it.

I just want to cry out, “Stop it! You’ll hurt it! Isn’t it enough that it comes into your hand? Why do you have to trap it? Contain it? Possess it?”

I feel this way about anything beautiful. All the creatures and scenes that God made fill me with awe. The idea of beauty itself—describing exactly why something is beautiful—isn’t really capturable. Nor can you remove the instinct of acknowledging beauty. There are some beauties that will always be; there are some beauties that we are conditioned by society to consider beautiful. Take the latest look in eye makeup, for example. I would never have imagined the exaggerated eye art of cinema’s Cleopatra and Cat Woman as something to imitate and go out in public wearing in 2014. But there you have it.

Here’s the thing, and we women know this: Beauty isn’t something you can trap, contain, or possess by force. It’s fleeting. It slips from our grasp again and again. No matter how some may try to redefine it, market it, and sell it, their promises are empty. We do not have it. Not essentially. Not here in this life.

Beauty is God’s. He is the Giver of every good thing. He created beauty. He created our love for it. He created our desire to have it, to want it so badly that we want to pounce, pin, and possess it forever. He knows what is truly, essentially beautiful, and He gives us all the guidelines to embrace this perfect beauty. Not a pounce and pin-type of possession but a thrilling gift we find in Him when He resides in us. It’s a glimpse of what eternity will be like. I believe it is there that we will get our fill of beauty and be satisfied.

Disclaimer: No parakeets or fireflies were interested in the writing of this post.