The Sassy Sandpiper: From Reluctant Transplant to Bona Fide Floridian
What makes a true Floridian? The Sassy Sandpiper knows.
By M.R. Wilson, TB Reporter
I am not Florida-born.
In 1956 I was taken on a very long car ride, an unknowing participant in “The Great Migration.” Not a migration of birds or butterflies, but of humans hoping to make a better life in the sun and sand of Florida. My family hails from a little town in western Nebraska called Scottsbluff. Ever heard of it? Don’t feel bad. Most people haven’t.
In 1972 I left St. Petersburg, pursuing the opportunity to attend the University of Missouri-Kansas City. After an eight-year stay, I returned to Florida on Sept. 25, 1980.
Today is the 36th anniversary of my homecoming.
I think I’ve earned the right to call myself a Floridian.
How to justify such a claim?
Looking through old photos and glancing through journals helped confirm what my sub-conscience has long labored to suppress. Here is the evidence—the lessons, attitudes, and inclinations—declaring I am a Floridian. In no particular order of importance:
- Avon’s Skin-so-Soft is a good mosquito repellant—for dogs and humans. I haven’t tried it on cats, for obvious reasons.
- You may suffer second degree burns from touching your car dashboard, steering wheel, and seatbelt buckles. Any time of the year. You may also feel as though the skin on the backs of your legs is being seared off if you foolishly plop down on unprotected (thick beach towels) car seats.
- A natural history museum of desiccated insects may collect in your car below the rear windshield. Mine includes bees, wasps, a baby lizard, and something unidentifiable with fangs.
- Humidity gives my hair “body.”
- Thongs are perfectly acceptable footwear—anytime, anywhere, any temperature.
- Frog choruses and ‘possum rummagings are common sleep disrupters.
- Lovebugs. Just eeeeuuuwwww.
- Good parking spots are a function of shade, not proximity to the entrance.
- Seagulls are conniving opportunists, but I feed them anyway.
- Billowing cumulus clouds are “Florida mountains.”
- I’ve added Snowbirds to my Life List.
- I’ve become allergic to oak pollen.
- I once killed a 2-inch cockroach with a house slipper.
- I will leap out of my car to help turtles cross the road and I break for Muscovies.
- I developed a healthy respect for alligators.
- I make a decadent Key Lime pie.
- I learned the Stingray Shuffle after stepping on one.
- I’m nostalgic for the Million Dollar Pier.
- The Gulf of Mexico has a forever hold on me.
- I consider plastic yard flamingos landscaping.
So, if not born in the Sunshine State, are you a bona fide Floridian nonetheless? By what criteria do you stake your claim? It’s just fine to say the place grows on you. And I don’t mean like mildew and Spanish moss.
Photo of children fishing off the Pier courtesy of M.R. Wilson.
Sassy Sandpiper | M.R. Wilson | Key Lime Pie | Alligators | Flamingos | TB Reporter
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