When I was a kid, my extended family spent a week most summers at a charming little beachfront motel on Anna Maria Island on the Gulf of Mexico. Anna Maria isn’t glamorous, but the sand is soft and white. The lazy gulf waves are well suited to a family more interested in lounging than surfing, and the sunsets over the water are stunningly beautiful, with the sun seeming to melt into gulf. Some of the happiest days of my childhood were spent at that beach.
Nearly a year ago Aunt Mary Sue corralled us all into making plans to return to Anna Maria Island for the first time in about a decade, and this week the time has come. I was a bit nervous as Sean and I left New York this past Saturday. Surely the little motel couldn’t be as cute as I remembered. Surely we’d all drive one another a little crazy living in such close quarters for the time in ages. But remarkably, neither disappointing scenario has played out. Blue Waters is exactly how I remembered it: modest but impeccably maintained, with geraniums planted alongside the pool and plenty of beach chairs to go around.
And overall I think everyone has been having a good time—certainly I have. True, returning to the bosom of one’s family always entails a bit of regression, with people falling back into the same ingrained patterns, the same running jokes. My willful, blundering adolescent self feels particularly present when I’m among those who knew that self intimately. Change feels elusive.
But if you come from a loving, occasionally intrusive, but invariably supportive clan—as I am fortunate to—that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. My family reminds me of who I am, who I will always be regardless of where I go or what I do. I haven’t lived in Florida for more than a couple weeks at a stretch since the summer after my freshman year of college, but every time I return, I feel like I never left. Among my family, I am always home.