Monday, April 12, 2010

East of the Sun

Come each April our family would escape still-thawing Upstate New York for sunny Florida. Driving to Richmond, VA., we would then hop aboard The Silver Meteor train. After roaming back and forth through the cars, drinking Coca-Cola in the club car, and chatting with the ever gracious porters, we kids would finally fall asleep. The train would travel through the night, and we would awaken to the mysterious sight of the Okeefenokee swamp, and our first glimpse of mile after mile of orange groves.

My paternal grandparents were early snowbirds, and had settled on Anna Maria Island on the Gulf of Mexico, from which they ran a charter fishing boat business on their cabin cruiser, the “Mobjack”. They lived in a trailer park right across the street from the beach, with the most interesting cast of characters you could imagine: ex-Circus performers, a revival preacher, and my favorite, Mrs. P. Mrs. P. was a first generation Greek-American. A warm lovely lady with a thick accent, she made sweets for us, and delicate crocheted doilies.

Each morning she took her big black inner tube, and would bob in the waters of the Gulf for a few hours. One morning she paddled out, and sadly never come back.

Exploring the seashore and sandbars, we kids searched for the shells of horseshoe crabs and sand dollars. In the mornings, we cheered as the elders deftly played shuffle board; or in the evening, peeking through the clubhouse windows we watched as they played bingo. Some nights, my Grandpa would take us on a torchlight crabbing expedition. Other times, Grandma taught us how to dig for coquina (small clams). And then she would whip up large batches of her Florida version of clam chowder.

But most of all, we loved our time onboard the “Mobjack”. When they weren’t busy with paying customers, Grandma and Grandpa would take us out for the day. Grandma would maneuver the boat, while Grandpa fixed our lines, and brought in our catch – mackerel, kingfish, and grouper. The sight of schools of dolphins as they raced the boat, or of giant sleeping turtles lazing in the deep bay, captivated us. Back at the dock, my grandfather took pride in demonstrating to us his fish-cleaning skills – YUCK!

Sometimes the fog would set in. Then Grandpa would crouch on the bow of the boat, and yell directions to Grandma as she guided us safely back to our home berth on the Island.

Each year, I returned home from these enchanted vacations with many memories and souvenirs, which usually included layers of peeling skin, and always a small bottle of orange blossom toilet water - Pure Florida sunshine!

Both my grandparents are gone now, but I smile thinking of them climbing aboard the “Mobjack” and navigating out into the deep purple waters of the Gulf.

West of the Moon,


  1. Good evening Marjorie!

    Fond memories always take us back to places we never want to leave, and I am so grateful for a good memory, a vivid imagination, and wonderful family and friends that have made the dreams possible. Bless you and have a fantastic Tuesday! Anita

  2. You always have such wonderful stories to tell Marjorie! Thank you for sharing some of your colorful memories.

  3. I love these memories. We had a caravan, made by dad, on the coast of Co. Down in N. Ireland. There was nothing really there and yet it was a magic place. Happy days!

  4. Wonderful memories. I have an uncle who lives in Bradenton. I think it's time for me to pay him a little visit.

  5. What an interesting story!
    The happy and sad of life!

  6. There is something about the open water and adventure which lingers in the heart forever. I have fond memories of the family heading to South Carolina every March Break to Kiawah Island.

  7. Hi Marjorie!
    I passed a sunshine award on to you! Thanks for all the inspiration. Check my post

  8. Marjorie,
    I can't tell you how wonderful it was to read this extraordinary memory right before I leave for my vacation. Beautifully written. I will never forget the Greek lady who floated out to sea. I will be leaving in the morning(wish it was by train, sipping Cokes)but wanted to answer your question about what books I'm bringing - Best New American Voices 2010, Sam Shepard short stories, Writing Down the Bones, and Pushkin's Button.
    Will visit when I return.
    Best wishes,

  9. Wonderful story of your history and the mobjack... how great is that photo! I feel like I got a peek at the past... thanks for sharing!

  10. What a wonderful story..., and childhood experiences!

    Maya @ Daily Vitamin Sea

  11. This was wonderful, I enjoyed reading it. My husband and I were talking just the other day about wonderful childhood memories, and he mentioned how important it is for children to have wonderful childhood expierences. We both talked about expierences with grandparent's. The Greek lady who floated out to sea...oh my goodness!

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