We moved to Tampa from Knoxville, TN. It wasn’t that I was upset about leaving there. We had been there for two years, and they had been the worst two years of my life. To date, those would still be two of the worst years of my life, though I must say 2012 gave them a run for their money. So, it wasn’t that I cared about leaving Knoxville. I mean, I hadn’t finished a sentence the whole time I lived there. You see, I was raised in South Carolina, where people take their time finishing their sentences. Slow and southern…that’s how we spoke. However, in Knoxville, people might have been southern, but slow was not how they rolled. They all sounded like auctioneers or like the guy on car commercials who tells all the rules at the end. Bless their hearts, those Tennesseans didn’t let me finish a thought for two whole years. That was just one of the many reasons I was angry.
When we came to Tampa, we first left my sister at college in Tennessee. We still joke that we moved away and left her twice, but she managed to find us both times. The first time was when she was in high school. She went on a school trip to Europe for a month, and when she came back, we had moved. She didn’t even know we were moving before she left. We picked her up from the airport and headed to the new house. She said, “Where are we going?” Oops…I guess we should have told her. So, when we dropped her off at college and moved out of the state two days later, I’m pretty sure it brought back bad memories for her. She still managed to find us eventually, though and came home on school breaks.
When we drove to Florida, we drove overnight, or at least that’s how I remember it. I remember every time I would get to sleep in the car, my parents would stop to get gas, go to the bathroom, etc. It was very annoying, and it only angered me more, if that was possible. I was 14, you know. That’s an angry age anyway.
Daddy got us settled in the local Ramada Inn here, and he headed back to Knoxville. He had to finish working up there, but we moved before him so I could start school at the beginning of the school year. Otherwise, I would have gone to school for only a few weeks up there and then would have started late here. There were not many hotel choices in Brandon back in the day, and the Ramada was the only one that would allow us to have our dog, Frazier. Frazier was a five pound Yorkie, so it wasn’t like he could do that much damage to a hotel room, but there was no room at the other inns for him.
Mama, Frazier and I lived in the Ramada Inn for five weeks. In a way, it was fun. We had two adjoining rooms, so I had my own hotel room and bathroom. I didn’t even have to clean it, because I had daily maid service. (Hmmm, with the way they leave their rooms, I wonder if my kids believe they are living in a hotel....) It got to the point where the maid would take Frazier out for a walk when she came to clean our room. That was handy, because it meant we didn’t have to rush back to take care of him if we had somewhere to go. Every morning, we ate breakfast in the hotel restaurant before I went to school. I actually had to leave for school before the restaurant was officially open, but the employees made an exception for us. I had chocolate chip pancakes and chocolate milk for breakfast every day for 5 weeks. One day, we tried to call them to see if I could have something different, and I placed my order. However, when we got to the restaurant, I was served, you guessed it, chocolate chip pancakes and chocolate milk. Oh well. At least there was some consistency in my life. The guy at the front desk was a native Spanish speaker, so he helped me with my Spanish homework. Come to think of it, I think he was actually just flirting with me. Ewww. Creepy.
When we finally found our house, I hated it. I hated it because it was in Tampax and because I had to live there with my parents. (I’m telling you…I was angry.) My parents’ bathroom ended up having dry rot behind the tiles in the shower. The whole bathroom had to be remodeled. I always thought that was a shame. I wanted it to be my bathroom. My bathroom had pink fixtures. I hated that bathroom. My mother insisted on making it into a flamingo bathroom, since we were in Florida. I hated those flamingos. Stupid Tampax flamingos.
The house had a pool with fountains. My mother tried to sell me on the fountains. I wasn’t buying it. She let me decorate my own room. Since the carpet had to be changed anyway, I could pick what I wanted, and I chose a white linoleum with yellow diamonds. I had a white day bad with a red bedspread and brass and glass tables. The room was topped off with a papisan chair with a big yellow cushion. It was a cool room. I still hated it.
I hated the kitchen. I hated the family room. I hated the stupid little room upfront that served as our office. There was nothing my parents could say or do to make me like Tampax.
There were many things about Florida that I should have liked. I mean, the sun shined every single day. Stupid sun. There were palm trees. Stupid trees. There were lizards. I hated those lizards, especially when one ran up my leg. But, over time, Florida became not so bad, and now, 27 years later, Florida is home to me. There’s no place I’d rather be. (I’m a poet!)
In retrospect, I sometimes wonder what my life would have turned out to be if we had not moved to Florida. Now, I know my life did not really begin until we got here. Within the first six months of living here, I met Willow, Mr. Everything and Rose. It wasn’t too long after that when I started going to church and when I met Micah. Without Mr. E, I would have never had the Beetle or the Goose. Who knows? I might have the Spider and the Duck now. It just wouldn't be right. Without moving to Tampa, I would not have the characters of my life, and my life would not be complete.
I have long since forgiven my parents for all the reasons I was mad back then (except maybe for that ugly flamingo bathroom). Moving to Tampa was the best thing that ever happened to me, but I still refuse, yes refuse, to thank my parents for it! Okay, okay. Thanks, Mama and Daddy. I don’t hate you. -Al