Tatum June

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic


Ode to my princess on her birthday

Submitted: February 01, 2018

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Submitted: February 01, 2018

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You can't tell by looking at the photo, but I remember because I was there.

This is my first princess, Tatum June. She was wearing a beautiful, loose, flowing dark blue tie-dyed dress I had bought her. Then maybe only 8 or 9 years old, within days from now she will be 11.

She must not have worn dresses like that very often or maybe it was something else, but.... I remember watching her graceful young form walk along the edge of the land while the ocean waves lapped like kisses at her bare toes. She didn't look like a little girl anymore, she looked like a young woman and I saw the future, when she will no longer be my baby. I thought of how lucky some young man will be one day, when I'm forced to let her go.

It was just like any year. It was spring and we loaded up "old brown" our faithful minivan for yet another family vacation. Off the top of my head I know we drove that damn van to Florida and back at least 15 times and it never failed me. I didn't know it, but life happens and it would be our last family vacation.

This year was a little different and a little better. Year by year our family grew and grew. Old brown was able to compensate and do her job but we'd get so damned cramped especially on the way back. (Somehow your possessions double in size on the return trip). One year we attempted to Griswald it and put the luggage on the luggage rack on top and then proceeded to drive through 500 miles of thunderstorms. Never again.

This year we had an extra driver, Dillon, and we took the fiat and headed out as a convoy haha. We had tons of space now. And the fiat made it all the way to Sarasota on 2 tanks of gas, 40 bucks.

Jellico mountain was intact and the gaps at Chattanooga and Knoxville gave us no problems. No shenanigans like previous trips. We sailed into Sarasota and met my cousin dawn and her family. They had a beautiful river walk there along the hotel waterfront. After sleeping and regaining our senses we headed to the island so we could disturb Quillins' peace and quiet for a week. How lucky we all are to have the always hospitable Benjamin there to share with us. He was heavily in mourning at the time as we had just recently lost Jenny.

We rented a house across the street from the ocean, Anna Maria had become nearly as familiar to us as Panama city. Breakfast at the rod and reel pier, lunch at skinnys place and dinner at mar vista. Warm nights and the bittersweet smell of brine. I knew all the streets and you'd be hard pressed to find better sand than those spits along the south opening to Tampa bay.

One afternoon I took the kids and we rented jet skis. We were inside the bay. What you likely don't know and neither did I is that although it looks like a large expanse of water many many areas of the bay, depending on the tide are only inches deep. The rental guy tried warning me but I had already had a few Mai Tais and was only half listening. Evidently, what they do is essentially dredge "roads" across the bays for boats to travel with deeper water. These roads are marked with bouys in the same way and for the same reasons we paint lines on our asphalt. As long as you stay full throttle you'll glide over the shallow areas like a skipping stone, but if you slow the water intake on the belly of the ski will clog with seagrass.

We all got stuck on a salt flat behind a mangrove covered, uninhabited island with no one in sight. The kids started panicking lol and all eyes turned to me to rectify our current predicament.

I had Dillon help me push the skis to deeper water. We were in 6 inches of water when we all stalled. I remember the rental captain telling me to just reach under the skis and clear the intake if that happens. Easier said than done! My arms weren't long enough to reach without physically going underwater under the skis to reach the intake. The water was a rich deep green in color and full of life. I imagined there were at least 5 or 6 great whites and a couple of tiger sharks too swimming just below me. And of course the edges of the intake baffles (which slanted towards the rear) were razor sharp and I sliced my hand.

I got one ski clear and running and now had to go under again and do the other ski, while bleeding pretty well. I was certain i was going to be shark bait at any moment. But it didn't happen and I had one of those very special dad moments when all hope seems lost but I stayed calm and fixed it all. The look of relief and pride in me on their faces, I'll never forget.

We headed to longboat pass. The sun started getting low in the sky creating that orange light that makes life seem sureal. I let the kids take turns on their own while I sat on the island at longboat key digging my own toes in the sand.

Life is sureal, but my princess is real and I'd still swim through lava just to bring her a glass of lemonade. Happy birthday Tatum June


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