The family is visiting, and as happens each time, I find myself rediscovering my home through the tourist’s eye. Driving across the Courtney Campbell, they gasp at the expanse of water, blue . . . and still as a sheet of glass. Rows of palm trees line the road, beckoning us toward the gateway to Safety Harbor. We turn onto Bayshore Drive, with its mangroves and more palm trees, outlined by the waters of the shoreline, marking the route to downtown.
The family has left behind the chilling rains of thirty-something degree weather and their muscles relax as they soak in the eighty-something degree Florida temperatures. I traverse this road daily, and I admit that I lapse into taking it all for granted: the year-round greenery, the daily view of the bay, the temperature that rarely steps outside my comfort zone. As I pass along this familiar thoroughfare, I recall my original discovery of the Bay Area, and a feeling of renewed appreciation envelops me.
We have time for a walk before dinner. As we circle the nearby pond, I remark, “Remember the baby alligator from last year? Look, he’s six feet now.” The kids jump back from the perimeter. I reassure them. “No worries. He’s more scared of us than we are of him.”
The next day, we step onto the pool deck of the Safety Harbor Resort and Spa. I order drinks from the bar. We members still call it the tiki bar, although in recent years it sports a grander look and name. Tropical drinks in hand, we find a row of lounges together and as we sink down and stretch out, I feel like I, too, am on vacation.
The daily routine of grocery runs, laundry, bill paying and community meeting recedes. I look around with the tourist’s eye: I had forgotten about the lion statues decorating the walkway. The season has changed, and with it, a new array of flowers cascade over the planters. This magnificent beauty had become routine to me, but though the perspective of my family, I observe my surroundings in the spirit of rediscovery. As we strike up a conversation with some guests from Ireland, I remind myself that my home is an international vacation destination.
The week goes by swiftly and the visit is over. On the road back toward the airport, my daughter points towards the shoreline and exclaims . . .
“Oh look, next visit we’ve gotta stop there. They have a tiki bar!”
I look at her quizzically.
“Mom, a tiki bar may be commonplace to you, but in our eyes, it’s part of the magic of visiting your home.”