When I met my husband for the first time, I was not impressed. I guess I should clarify that. When I met him, I didn’t fall over backwards, with the wind knocked out of me in love. He was a nice guy, but according to my twenty two year old self he was not my type. Frankly, he seemed a tad too normal.
But there must have been a draw because I continued to hang out with this “dull guy”– almost every day. Perhaps it was because we liked the same movies or because we shared a love for strawberry cheesecake…I don’t know. But over the next few months something happened. I began really falling for him. Turns out he wasn’t all that normal. He sculpted paper mache monsters for fun and had a collection of animal skulls on his bookshelf–and because I, myself am not so normal–this impressed me a great deal.
I bring this slightly embarrassing story up because I seem to be falling in love again—this time with a town that’s not quite normal (e.g. pink and blue houses, manatee mailboxes, and homes adorned with with pirate mannequins).
My initial feelings for little Flagler were that of infatuation. “Oh what sweet, little gift shops. Oh what a lovely beach. What a darling little alley way to ride my bike down.” I was smitten by its quaintness. It was a nice place to visit, but maybe not the kind of town I’d want to spend a lifetime with.
A week ago, I got sick with chills, then hot flashes, then an intense desire to lie on the couch and watch nothing but Storage Wars and International House Hunters. No one else in the family caught whatever I had, so using my own medical expertise, I declared I had a full blown case of home sickness. I figured beneath the surface my subconscious mind was reeling with resentment for this crazy journey we had brought ourselves on. My mind, body, and soul had had enough.
My initial infatuation with Flagler Beach was over. Now I was just mad—tired of the newness of life. Every trip to the grocery store felt like a first. We were still searching for “our” regular restaurant. I was annoyed that the chai here tastes like soap, and that I just couldn’t find a decent pecan, butterscotch scone to save my life. But most of all I was tired of not having friends to reach out to, to cheer me up on days like these when things felt miserable.
After two days of misery on the couch, I got up. Still a little woozy, I went to pick the kids up at Flagler beach Montessori School. A fellow mom saw me outside. She assessed my sad state, and asked how I was doing.
“Well, it’s been one of those weeks,” I said.
She laughed and said, “Let me tell you, I know exactly what you mean.” We laughed together and enjoyed sharing a moment of misery, knowing were both mothers with whiny children and too much laundry to do. I was making a friend.
As I entered the school I was directly approached by a smiling teacher, who pulled me aside and told me that my son, (who was having his own adjustment issues) was doing great.
”He’s a riot!” she said.
I was elated. Pip’s charm isn’t readily recognized and for his teacher to get his offbeat humor was huge. As she talked, she smiled at me in her genuine, heartfelt way—with what I like to call the Flagler Beach smile—true, honest, open. No one is a stranger here.
About a week later, as I continued recovering from my debilitating bout of homesickness I headed into a little art gallery. The owner of “The Gallery of Local Art” greeted me and we began making conversation. Though we just met, we ended up chatting for an entire hour about art and life. If I had been in Madison, maybe we would have smiled, said a few words, and gone about our day, but here time moves a bit slower. People take the time to listen, to share. Things were looking up.
So now, whenever I bike down Oceanshore Boulevard with the rolling waves to my side, the salty air whipping through my hair, I notice this feeling of joy that wells up in me like a big ocean swell, pushing with life towards the shore.
Things are good here. I’m getting hooked on Flagler Beach and yes, I think I’m falling in love.