We’ve been in Pinellas County for almost three months now, and my darling girl does love the water. Here, Maggie models the latest in UPF 50 swimwear for the whitest-white-girl-that-ever-did-white set. Wrist-to-ankles with zinc woven into the fabric, and worth every penny since sunscreen that won’t kill you or give you other cancers costs a mint and thus it makes sense to cover 90% of her body.
Today we went to Madeira Beach for about an hour, a departure from our usual Sunset Beach on Treasure Island. Maggie has no respect whatsoever for the water–the soaked curls in the photo are a result of her crawling off toward the water’s edge while I was unfolding a chair and nearly getting swept off to Cuba before I caught up to her. File under “Mothers, Negligent.”
There’s no good segue here: I can’t talk about the oil spill without crying. I’ve been coming to this area to visit family since I was the same age that Maggie is in this photograph and there is nothing about this situation that doesn’t break my heart. Parts of the Gulf Coast are going to be ruined for the remainder of my lifetime, possibly the rest of Maggie’s too. It’s coming this way, I hear; the Panhandle has already been hit. She’s too young to remember this trip; she may never know how this beach was before the oil. Unemployment here is already terrible and if tourism takes the expected hit, it will only get worse. My sister and brother-in-law had hoped to move here within the next few years, but he’s in tourism and truly, there’s nothing for him here if the oil ruins local tourism. I’ve done what I can, donating enormous bottles of Dawn to cleanup organizations and encouraging others to do the same, but the sick, dropped-stomach helpless feeling persists.
But in the meantime, before the landscape changes, we’re enjoying the hell out of the area. I’ve declared the remainder of this week and next “St. Pete Appreciation Week” and we’re going to do.it.up. At least, we’re going to do it up as only as semi-single mother and her demanding almost-toddler can–in moderate doses with lots of sunscreen, hydration breaks, and frequent stops to air-conditioned places. The Dali Museum, the Sunken Gardens, the fruit winery that makes a carrot Merlot that once sent Tom away gasping and clutching his tradtionalist metaphorical pearls in disgusted disbelief. (Maggie can be my driver.) I signed Maggie up for private at-home swim lessons in my parents’ pool so we can get the most out of our water time here and back at home. We’re going to go all over her daddy’s former stomping grounds (he’s a Floridian born and bred, of course) and see what he saw when he was small.
If she can’t remember how it used to be, maybe Tom and I can remember enough for her.