Florida was my home for 18 years. In a way, it will always be my home. So much of who I am today was formed in the Sunshine State, albeit from the shadows as I am not really found of heat or sun. Yes, I did willingly move to Florida but until you live here you don’t understand how oppressive the sun is. It never really stops trying to scorch the invaders so it can go back to being a happy mosquito infested swamp. We all have our glory days, and Florida misses when its very nature repelled development.
The journey here was longer than expected. We left my beloved mountains and solid ground around 7am thinking that with stops we would be in Orlando around 7-8 o’clock. Alas, we made it in shortly after 1am. While we were finishing lunch and getting gas, there was a multi-vehicle car crash 25 miles from the Georgia-Florida line.
We were rerouted by GPS so many times that at one point after a much needed stop we had to head North on 95 to be able to navigate around it. With all the detours, there wasn’t much time to think or reflect on my first trip back home in two years.
Reflection came after I relinquished the wheel and saw the Orlando area for the first time. Places that I had known flying by in the shadows and then the lights growing of downtown Orlando. This is not the land of the mouse. It is hard to define what it is the land of because Orlando and Florida in general is more than a vacation designation. It is home and not home.
Home is the solid footing of the Blue Ridge Mountains, but home is also where the heart is and pieces of my heart will always be in Florida with my family (both biological and chosen). There were so many people and places that I wanted to see. I managed more than my last trip in 2019. Time, however, was not on my side.
I remembered Papi, first. I remembered the place where we first kissed and so many other bittersweet memories in between. We passed where my friend, Shannon, lived in the last days of her life. We drove pass what had been the home of my friends, Wolfie and Awen. Awen passed away in the home and Wolfie moved out more than a decade ago.
We briefly stopped at Lake Eola before discovering that our bladders wanted us elsewhere. I thought about the walks around the lake. One sticks out, we were walking around before Papa passed, my brother E was with us and we were all sad, but happy to be together in the sun and fresh air.
My companions and I walked through Disney Springs and all the happy memories of my best friend and I hanging out. Memories of family birthday gatherings at the Rainforest Cafe and the day I walked into the Chapel Hats and asked them to find me a hat to match my outfit.
There was a drive through my old neighborhood and so many memoires. My companions got to see the porch where the novella “Blood Child” was conceived. And the places where I used to walk with Luke
We wandered through the Greenwood Cemetery where I poured out every bit of knowledge I have concerning it. I couldn’t bare to take them to the Pulse Memorial but I could point out the section of Greenwood that were some of the 49 Angels have been buried. The City of Orlando donated the plots for them. I pointed out the trees and other features that mark it as unique.
My companions traveled with me back in time. They were most amused after dinner with Zee and the Professor where I had indulged into far too much wine. During the journey back home, I gave them Lucinda’s drunken tour of Orlando. Apparently, I had a lot to say about every building I could identify and quite a few that had been built in my absent.
The present and the potential future blinked in and out of my days home.
The past is not a place you can stay. You can only really glimpse it. The emotions push through the veil separating past, present, and future. You are there for a moment, feeling all of the emotions, drowning in them. Then you are in the now, and nothing is right.
Nothing is the same.
Everything changes regardless of your desires. Your favorite nacho places closes after twenty years. Friends move out of your old neighborhood. And sadly, there are people you never get to say goodbye to again, even when you are going back in time.