Thursday, March 13, 2014
It was 1974 or so when my entire family--all 6 of us--plus my cousin and grandfather piled into our blue station wagon for our first trip to Florida. How we managed the 2-day drive without the kids killing each other--or our parents killing any of us--I don't know. We stopped to visit my cousins in Lynchburg, Virginia along the way, where my grandfather stayed while the rest of us made our way to central Florida, somewhere outside Orlando where my father had arranged for us to rent a tiny cottage by a lake for a week. The lake even had an alligator, which people fed from the dock.
We took day trips to visit tourist attractions like Cypress Gardens, Weeki Wachee, Disneyworld, Bok Singing Tower, Kennedy Space Center, and Parrot Jungle*, where the above photo was taken. My father said to me a few years ago that he thought he had over-planned our family trips, and that we should have spent more time relaxing. Nothing could be further from the truth! I reassured him that I loved the trips and all the things our family did.
That trip to Florida made a huge impression on me. I remember orange groves, and palms trees, but the "Jungle Cruise" at Disneyworld probably made the biggest impression on me and I came home dreaming of tropical plants and landscapes, determined to somehow reproduce them even if only in miniature. So when you see me working with palms, bananas, and elephant ears in my back yard, what you're seeing is that 12-year-old kid all grown up but still dreaming.
* Does anybody else remember a "Parrot Jungle" from the 1970's? This apparently now-defunct attraction would have been somewhere near Orlando, not the Parrot Jungle in Miami.