When I think about you, I think most often of my childhood. Back when I'd never seen snow or a mountain, when the only things I knew about the world were that it was sandy and humid, bright and hot.
We had an orange tree in the backyard that I adored. Every winter it would grow heavy with what seemed like hundreds of the sweetest oranges I'd ever tasted. I'd eat them until my lips burned. Sometimes when I am stressed and anxious, I close my eyes and return to the shade of that tree. Even though it died long ago, in this way, it still protects me.
We adopted a white Boxer my brother called Boomer, after the football player. Boomer was intelligent. He instinctively knew the boundaries of our yard and we never had to leash him. He was also protective. We had a shed in the backyard that I would often paint in until the wee hours of the morning. Though he wanted to go in the house to bed, he wouldn't leave me. He'd whine by the door and try to get comfortable on the cold, hard concrete in there. He wouldn't go in until I went in.
He was my companion. He was my best friend. Boomer still visits me in dreams. Though he is gone now, in this way, we are still friends.
When I think about you, South Florida, I think about what a dreamer I was. As a little kid, I'd sing songs into the wind and wish it would travel to the ears of my future husband. How I'd pray only for the ability to fly. How I watched sunsets, how I lost myself in books, how I suffered, how I transformed. I was still a child when I left you, but I thought I was grown.
Images via Wikimedia Commons.