I don't believe that there is a child alive that had a better childhood than I did. You see, I was raised in South Florida with sand, the beach, and palm trees in abundance. I learned to climb trees by running up the base of tall coconut palms trying to see if I could get a coconut from the top of it. My dad had fruit trees in the backyard and I ate Duncan grapefruit, Temple oranges, lemons, calamondin oranges, kumquats, and Japanese plums (aka - loquats)straight out of my back yard.
I kept a small salt shaker hidden in my dad's shop because I love salt on Temple oranges and Duncan Grapefruits. My mom did not can perserves....my mom made marmalade (nifty piece of alliteration huh?) I love the taste of marmalade, especially on English muffins.
Everyone around me had vegetation in their back yards. Our next door neighbor....Mr. G. Have a mecca in his and we loved slipping in their once he had gone to work and eating some of his delicacies. He had mango, papaya, and a world of other yummies. We had avocado trees in our yard. My dad used to take them, split them in half, remove the seed (future science growth project there)....and fill them with ice cream. It was a creamy delight.
Hurricane parties were a way of life....don't get me wrong....we weren't stupid about those. We would secure our homes, sanitize the bath tub and fill it with water, get out all kinds of camping gear(for a past time we did not partake of), get out the games and wait with our neighbors....this was especially true if you had elderly neighbors. They were not left alone during hurricanes. The men of the block would go and make sure their homes were secured. Vacations were to the Keys and Sanibel Island(Disney didn't open until the end of 1971). My parents made sure I was well traveled in the state of Florida. I have seen Bach Tower, Silver Springs, the Stephen Foster Folk Center, Wikiwatchee(they had live mermaids there), the mighty Everglades(I have ridden an airboat, seen alligators, etc), South Beach before it was a hip place to go, Jupiter Inlet, lighthouses all over the state, St. Augustine.....oh the places I have been. One of my favorite childhood memories revolves around Charles Chips.
These culinary delights were delivered weekly right to your house! It was one of those cool things....you put your empty can on the porch and later in the day there would be a full one in its place. I guess the Charles Chips truck was the precursor to UPS. If I was really lucky....on Charlie Chip day we would go and get a Russo's sub for supper. Talk about some kind of wonderful. I still go and get Russo's when I go home to Florida....they have been around a long time.
Christmas in Florida is different from almost anywhere else....except California and Hawaii.....near my home town we had The National Enquirer AND they had the BIGGEST Christmas Tree ever! It was the high point of the holiday to ride by and see the massive structure all sparkling and huge. One of the things you can bank on in the south is that afternoon thunderstorms are a way of life. They last just long enough to steam up your glasses and make the place hotter than it was before the storm.....but when you are a kid in South Florida you expected a 15 minute afternoon thunderstorm everyday and loved watching the clouds for figures you recognized. You hoped it would rain hard enough to back up the storm drains so you could skim board in the streets. Cape Jasmine (aka Gardenias) bloomed in great abundance and the smell of the lovely white flower was intoxicating.....for me...not so much....for me they were deadly. I had a major allergy to the things....and our next door neighbor had a hedgerow of them between their house and my bedroom. Nights were tough for me sometimes....until my dad installed a window AC. How cool was that. I was 13 and we had an AC in our house. What did we do before that? I don't know I was too busy living to deal with something as trifle as heat. We had these hateful bushes in our front yard called Florida cherries. I don't know if you could eat them....but they were great ammunition for a neighborhood war. We would hide in bushes and behind things and bombard another child with these.
Life was fun. Yep...it was....and we could not wait to grow up.....and we did....and here we are....wishing we could be young again. Sigh!
To Joey, With Love....WINNER!
10 months ago