Friday, January 04, 2013

The Big Florida Post...

While we were down in Florida visiting family for the holidays, I must have snapped hundreds of pictures.  This is unusual for me, because I tend to be thrifty with my shots.  I remember the days before digital cameras where you checked your composition, focused your camera, and tried to get the very best shot first and in a single take.  Not only as a sign of dedication to the craft of photography, but because it either cost a lot to develop the film OR it took a really long time in the darkroom.  (I must say, that even though I filled up a memory card, a good majority of them were blurry pictures of the kids playing and really terrible manatee photos... but I'll write more on the latter further on in the post.)

One of the activities that we participated in was a trip down memory lane with a look through old photo albums.  Since it was William's first time meeting my parents, it was almost obligatory and took on a particularly importance now that all the children have been reunited.  While looking through the albums, I noticed a distinctive absence of pictures of me.  When my brother left, my parents stopped taking pictures.  An occasional school picture was found, but there wasn't much after age 7 until my sisters took up photography in high school (and those pictures were usually taken to document the horror on my face at the latest prank they pulled).  I think this realization made me subconsciously trigger-happy with the camera.

So it took me a while to weed through the images, but I found a couple that I wanted to share:

Steve and Sheila had a roll of tape decorated with a mustache motif.  Max wanted one, so Sheila very gingerly cut one out for him to wear. Here he is sitting with his mama, Cynthia.  In hindsight, I should have gotten a picture with Max sporting his faux mustache, as at the beginning of the trip, I had some facial hair of my own!  (But after the itchiness, the uncomfortable heat, and the comments of how I looked like Evil Spock, I relented and shaved it off.)
One of the things that I enjoyed greatly was the opportunity to walk around (without a jacket and layers of constricting thermal underwear) and take pictures of the plants.  It was nice to infuse my eyeballs with the color of green again.  Things in Southwestern Pennsylvania had been a monotone mix of grays and browns before I left.  This shot is of the starfruit blossoms.  (Yes, we also enjoyed walking around my parents' property eating tropical fruit all day as well.)

Besides sitting around the house and catching up (and eating and eating), we did go out and do a few things!  We got up bright and early one morning and headed out to Blue Springs.  During the winters, the manatees gather here.  This must have been a record-breaking winter, because there were over 300 manatees spotted!  On our way out, we saw a news crew pull in to cover the ample plenty.

At the beginning of this post, I mentioned how a good many of the photos I took on this trip were of manatees.  I also noted how many of the photos were pretty bad.  In my defense, manatees are not the easiest of creatures to capture on film.  For one, I had to hold the camera at odd angles to peer over the fawning crowd.  Secondly, the sublimely clear waters of the spring distort the shapes and have a rippling reflective glare that can mask what lies beneath the surface.  And finally, I was so bewitched by watching them playing and going about their marine-mammal lives that I forgot that manatees are not exactly known for their distinctive markings, unusual shapes, or vivid colorings.  To be blunt, without their slow, watery gliding, they sort of resemble boulders or logs.  Combine all these factors... and you get A LOT of bad pictures.  With that said, we had a great time looking at the manatees and really enjoyed seeing so many of them.

We saw this HUGE hollowed out tree that looked like it had been struck (several times) by lightning.  Here's a picture of Azalea posing wide-eyed in a cleft in the tree trunk.
I couldn't help but include this close-up of Max giving a Charming Smile.
Here is the rest of the crew posing with the mosaic-tiled manatee sculpture framed by a curtain of Spanish Moss.  From left to right: Steve, Azalea, Max, William, Sheila, and Cynthia.
After our excursion to Blue Springs, we had lunch and made our way out to New Symrna Beach.  This used to be a favorite high school hookie destination.  It was relatively close to the school, cleaner than Daytona and had fewer truancy cops, AND due to its reputation as being a place to get bitten by a shark, there were also fewer tourists.

Although it was much warmer than the Pennsylvania, it was still pretty chilly out and not the ideal beach weather.  The kids still enjoyed it.  They rolled up their pants and proceeded to splash around.
Once unleashed on the beach, Max did not want to go back in the car to go home.  He was just having too much fun!  This shot is of William playing "airplane" with Max, which was a thin disguise for him to capture the fun-loving lad.

I had a couple of other "more composed" pictures of the kids in front of the Christmas tree, but I thought this one summed up the moment best.  Both of them were exhausted from the previous day's activities, but they got up super early in anticipation of presents.  It was cute to watch them sleepily sit in front of the tree and police each other in not opening, touching, or moving the gifts.

All of the grown-ups agreed to only get presents for the kids and not get presents for each other.  William and I got Max a "Hulk Smash" action figurine.  Of course, we didn't wrap it sturdily enough and once Max picked it up, the doll's head popped through the wrapping paper prematurely.  This created a chain reaction.
Here's a picture of Sheila playing with the Hulk doll and the Xanadu Barbie.  The excitement of my niece and nephew was infectious.  It was nice to see everyone so happy and festive.

Although all the adults had agreed not to get presents for one another, Dwayne started working on these months before.  He thought of each of us and translated them into our own distinctive ornaments by meticulously carving each one.  They have a tribal elvish look to them.  Couples got a matching set and this photo is of our ornaments together.
I would be remiss not to include a picture of Cynthia's sweet master perfumery kit.  We spent a good portion of the time down there crafting our own unique blends.  We talked again about starting out own line of fragrances... and who knows... it might actually happen this time.

I wanted to end this post with the picture of the perfumes, because family is a lot like a perfume.  A perfume is a combination of essential fragrances that create the head, heart, and base.  The formulas can be simple or complex, but each is unique to the ingredients added.  These ingredients are like our experiences or memories, added one at a time.  And like perfumes, sometimes family can get a little overwhelming at times.  Even so, perfume like family accents our lives... it can reinvigorate us, inspire us, and give us cause to remember.  And also like perfume, the bonds of familial ties are often invisible to the naked eye... but are surely there and can be detected at close proximity.


Jean Katherine Baldridge said...

Dear Andrew! What a great post.
A melange of joy and beauty.
One Christmas, all my son Robert wanted was a stuffed manatee. I didn't know what to do or where to get one! We ended up getting him one at Amazon and it was over four feet long! We got one for his bro Ian too!
As far as perfume:
Please tell Cynthia my new passion is perfume, and perfume reviewing.
I have always loved perfume and most of the ones which were my favs. are long gone. However, I have been trying to review on under the name jeannieby.
One of my favourite books when I was younger was Perfume. It is a dark story. I thought it was wonderfully written. If you all have vial you wanr to send me of creations, I would be incredibly appreciative and would let you know what I think of each one. I am just learning but have a good nose. xox jean

Cynthia Thornton said...

What a great post! Loved the pics. Nice analogy at the end.

Becky Pancake said...

Thanx for sharing your Christmas with us. Dwayne's ornaments are great. What are they made of?

Shai Williams said...

What a great post and I loved finally getting to 'meet' your partner.