Back in the day, when I held the moniker of “cool parent,” we jetted on New Year’s Day to Key West. Admittedly, the flight from Orlando was a short jaunt – less than an hour – but as one of a handful of passengers, we enjoyed a vast selection of seats on the plane, and to save time, we placed our drink orders before we ever left the gate. This may have been the easy way to the southernmost point in the US, but it reduced our travels by more than a full day and in a matter of minutes, we were in the tropical islands. Before long we arrived at our bed and breakfast and cruised Duval Street with slices of key lime pie, key lime soda, key lime souvenirs, and key lime everything.
Son #2 enjoyed the tourist view of the city. Remnants of the year-end celebration lined the curbs with confetti and tissue paper muted into the nooks and crannies of the town. We treated ourselves to pie on a stick dipped in chocolate, we laughed at stupid, cheesy t-shirts, we obtained cold drink cozies, and we observed the range of lush plants gracing the residences between our inn and the queue for the photo opportunity at the southern-most point in the Unite d States. This is where the tourist line up but we snapped a quick shot from the far side and skipped the craziness of the Keys. Once back at the B&B, Son #1joinedme for a chance to cruise the adult side of the last of Florida’s chain, sampled the margaritas of this ‘ville, meandered in the darkness that leaves Key West in the Florida version of winter, and stumbled home on a lovely buzz of tequila and fun. We dabbled in a little bit of something for everyone.
When we depart early this morning, heading for the excursion out of Biscayne National Park, we really have no business being awake before sunrise. Yet arriving in Marathon, we see the sun peek over the horizon of scattered islands and inlets bathed in the rich oranges and deep roses of early morning delighting us with the view of the Keys that those cursed with hangovers fail to appreciate. Most of Florida misses this sun-drenched view, and as I snap a photo of its beauty, Son #1 serenades the sunrise with his harmonica. We know how to absorb the best of the moment, complete with musical accompaniment.
Upon arrival south of Florida’s narrow east-coast metropolis, we press on to our destination, and then patiently wait to embark on the cross-bay excursion to Boca Chita. Still technically a Florida Key, downtown Miami looms in the distance and we ignore its presence and head for the small speck of land and the lighthouse guarding its shores. The northern end of the chain lacks the excitement and ambiance of Key West; Hemingway was never mesmerized by the simple ride from just above the Turkey Lake Power Plant to this simple plot of land. For a single mom and her sons, though, an afternoon off the mainland, away from the nine-to-five of the office and the routines of everyday, this simple spot of land close to the city yet far enough away to feel like an escape reminds me that even for a few days, reveals and reminds that a little bit of something is far more enjoyable than a whole lot of the nothing in every day’s humdrum, delivering a few hours of simply wonderful. I appreciate the boys’ silliness, the escape from the rest of Florida, the basic beauty of the lighthouse, and the tiny island of Boca Chita.