Jim Abbott on Travel
Postcards from Florida
July 30, 2011
With apologies to Thomas Wolfe, I'd say that you can go home again.
As much as I envy my traveling friends who plan and execute exotic vacations to explore national monuments, the Grand Canyon or the wine country of California, one of my favorite getaways is the low-fuss time-machine excursion to my South Florida hometown.
When I tell people that I grew up outside of Miami, the news is usually greeted by looks of concern. Most envision chain-link fences, police dogs and maybe a few scenes out of "Miami Vice." In reality, if I were going to compare my childhood in the South Florida suburb of Miami Springs to a TV show, it would be "The Wonder Years." My hometown was, and remains, a lovely, tree-lined bedroom community somehow isolated from Miami's urban sprawl.
In "The Wonder Years" spirit, I indulge my inner Kevin Arnold twice a year. I make the four-hour hop from Orlando to stand on the sidewalk in front of my childhood home on Falcon Avenue and walk the tiny business district on Westward Drive to look out on the Circle, the landmark hub that is the city's scenic entrance.
A few weeks ago, I added a wrinkle to heighten the nostalgia, timing my semiannual trek to arrive on Independence Day. After all, that's what Kevin Arnold would have done. There was a parade, a city-sponsored picnic and fireworks over the golf course. Fireworks just like Miami Springs in 1976, my first year in high school, and I remember watching them.
This year's show turned back the clock again and that's why I go. I usually go alone, too, because my own adult kids long ago reached the threshold of appreciation for the memories that I can unearth on every corner. That's probably normal, but I like my semiannual nostalgia trip.
Only a handful of characters from my childhood remain in town, but they're top-notch. A neighbor two doors down keeps me updated on local news. I had a three-hour lunch with Mary, a treasured high-school friend who has married and raised a family in our hometown. I wonder what that would be like.
Not Winnie Cooper, but darn close.
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