Friday, May 28, 2010

My Trip To Bountiful

From Texas through Louisiana (the state with the worst roads in the entire country) and Mississippi (where it was hotter than the hinges of hell and where I had much business to attend to - and that's why you haven't heard anything from me in days and days and days) and then on through the little dangly bottom part of Alabama to reach, at last, my Bountiful:

This is truly my Trip to Bountiful. I return to old stomping grounds. To the scene of many old times - both good and bad. But mostly just heart-tuggers now as I look around me and remember.

It began, of course, with first glimpses of scrubby pines

and Spanish moss:

And a sign on the side of a building that reminded me of the Oh-So-Many times my mother dragged me, kicking and screaming, fishing with her when I was too little to be left on my own.

My mother loved to fish. And I hated every stinky, slimy, wiggly, ooey, gooey, wet, dirty minute of it. My mother would wear an old beat-up hat and shirt and pants and worn-out shoes and away we would go. Sometimes the car would get stuck between the paved road and the fishing camp and she would cut branches from trees to stick under the tires in an effort to get going again. These are fond memories - because they are memories. If I had to do it again, I would not be telling the tale so happily. I hate fishing to this day.

One of the great, traditional Florida meals is fried Mullet with hushpuppies, baked beans and grits. YUM! Makes me hungry just thinking about it.

Check out the prices on this sign for smoked mullet we passed on our way heading south through a little town I've been through so many times in my life. With TWO sides? For $7.00 max? I can only shake my head. Some things are still as good as I remember.

Destination reached, at last:

Palm-lined, sun-drenched streets. Bright blue skies with puffy white clouds. Gorgeous Oleanders in evidence everywhere:

The bay, with the beach beyond - to be visited later:

But first, the heartstrings tug to find places not seen in so many years that I wondered if they would still be there. Like the once-home of my modeling mentor and teacher when I was a young girl and under contract to the agency she helped to found:

I knew approximately where this house was located. I held my breath as I traveled down the main road - reading carefully every street sign as we passed. At last there it was! The name I remembered from so long ago. We turned down the street and I knew it the moment I saw it. I remember it as a pink house. It's very strange that, today, the house looks quite modest. But back then it was a fabulous house. Big and lovely on the inside with a large stone planter filled with tropical plants separating the entry from the living area. I often think of the woman I so admired who lived there. The woman who saw my photograph and demanded to know where she could find me for the agency. Strange paths we all travel. Unique and wonderful memories we all have. These are some of mine.

Continuing my time-travels, we next drove past one of the old buildings that used to be a department store on the ground level. I snapped this photo as we waited at the red light:

Above the department store, there were offices of doctors and lawyers and other types of businesses. This brought to mind the story my mother told of taking me to a doctor in this building to have my tonsils removed. According to my mother, once the doctor had removed the tonsils, he refused to let her take me with her until she went away and returned with the money to pay the bill in full. So this became the building in which I was held hostage for ransom.

After passing this building we passed the old courthouse where my grandfather once worked. Then we came to the street on which I grew up. The house I grew up in is very modest and I was pretty glum at seeing what had been done to it over the years. Let's just say it has not been improved. But down and across the street is the house where I played with neighbor kids. And in front of the house was a huge tree we called "Rocky Top":

As you can probably guess, we called it that because we would fearlessly climb to the top and make it swing back and forth as hard as we could. It's a wonder we weren't all killed. But it was a great childhood. We were free back then to run and explore - very much like the children in one of my favorite books: "To Kill A Mockingbird" (and from which book I take my name "AngelMay").

Next, we continued to travel south to the next town where I wanted to see the street on which my great aunt had lived when I was just a little thing. I walked to her house every afternoon when elementary school ended for the day and stayed with her until my mother could come to fetch me when her workday was finished. Alas, my aunt's house is no longer there. But what does remain - and will probably remain long after we are all dead and gone - is the street itself which is made of bricks:

Notice that the curb is made of granite. These are the same bricks, the same granite curb, that have formed this particular street for probably close to 100 years. To my knowledge there has never been a pothole in any of these brick streets and they are not much more worn today than when they were new. Makes me wonder why all streets are not made of brick.

Turning north once again, I had another house on my mind. This one belonged to my art teacher. From her I learned dress design and portrait painting at a very prestigious art center at that time. We drove down streets I thought I recognized, only hoping that something would trigger my memory. And then I saw the street name and I knew immediately I had found it.

And there it was:

Still as wonderful as a young girl of poor means had thought it was. I wonder about this woman too. Is she still living? Where would she be? How would she be? I will never know. But just as I hope for my modeling mentor, I hope that her life was a good one. I will never forget either of them. They both saw something in me of value. Something special. They will never know how I admired them in return.

And then we hit the beach:

Be still my foolish young heart! What wonderful memories here! But first, lunch at the famous restaurant I haven't frequented for years and years. The Beachcomber:

Yum. Can't really show you the wonderful fresh Grouper we had for lunch because we snarfed it all down like we would never eat anything like it again. And, possibly, we will not. That's rather sad, I think. I miss the wonderful Florida seafood.

And then, sated, out to the beach:

If you are wondering how I got this shot, I had rolled my pants legs up and was happily wading up and down in my beautiful, fantastic Gulf of Mexico - camera around my neck like a real tourist. I'd bet real money not a person around had a clue that I was born and grew up there.

Now you have to admit: THIS is a BEACH!
The very thought that it could be contaminated and ruined with gummy black oil is just a heart-breaker. And the wildlife! What of them? I cannot bear to think of it.

I'm so very glad I got the chance to see it again now - while it is still as gorgeous as I remember. Just so very glad.

Oh yes! I forgot to mention that, before I ventured out into the sun, I got myself a hat:

I liked it so much I went back the next day and bought myself a pink one just like it. Every woman deserves a new hat once in a while. Or two.

And this is the story of my Trip to Bountiful...



Brian Miller said...

sounds like you had a great trip down memory lane today...that is awesome. say hello to FL for day i will make it back...

Baino said...

Aww this was totally gorgeous. Lovely white sand. You were a model? How interesting I had no idea. Great to revisit although I think if I headed home, I'd barely recognise it frankly. I'm really enjoying your trip by the way!

Janice said...

What a lovely time travel!

Lo said...

I loved this wonderful to revisit a scene that is still vivid in your mind. So glad you could do it so happily.

Sandra Leigh said...

When I first saw your itinerary, I cringed -- such a long maiden voyage for your RV -- but there you are, at the outer edge of the trip already. I'm so glad that Florida is making you welcome -- Who says you can't go home again?

CatLadyLarew said...

The rest of my family "retired" from Iowa to Tarpon Springs. Many parts of it look like time is standing still. Your trip has definitely been bountiful!

The Silver Fox said...

Fascinating memories. They remind me of three of the four trips I took to Florida as an adult. The first was in '73, the second with my first fiancee in '79, and the third in '82 or '83... and all involved my Mom. You've reawkened a lot of good stuff in me by sharing your own thoughts. Thanks.

And The Trip to Bountiful was a great movie, btw, as was To Kill a Mockingbird (and the book it was based on, of course).

And finally.... loved that "hostage" story!

The Silver Fox said...

Umm.... That was supposed to be "reawakened."

AmyLK said...

What a wonderful trip! Love the beach and am heartbroken over what may happen to it and so many others down there.

AngelMay said...

Thanks to everyone for their wonderful comments. It was a fantastic trip to Bountiful (Fox, I loved that play - it WAS a play, wasn't it? Before it was a film? - And, of course, To Kill A Mockingbird is very special to me because it so closely depicts my own childhood days) but at the moment I'm glad to once again be heading north and west in an attempt to find cooler temps. It's SO hot down here, I wonder how anyone managed to survive. :)

Sandy said...

So glad you came up for air! Looks like you are having a fantastic trip. I am traveling vicariously through you. Keep them pics comin'.

Alan Burnett said...

And what a story. Fabulous - it has been almost like being with you.

Harnett-Hargrove said...

I smiled at those pastel painted houses... so very Floridian. The gulf, warm and inviting. You took me back with you! -J

Jessie said...

sounds like you had a wonderful trip! i love Spanish moss hanging from the trees. i'm not a fisherwoman either--boring and disgusting; however, it does taste wonderful! welcome back!