When you are from the Pacific Northwest and travel to Hawaii, chances are very good that you are going to run into someone that you know while you’re there. Or run into someone that knows somebody that you know. Or at the very least, run into any random somebody from the Pacific Northwest. Hawaii is a popular vacation destination for us in that corner of the world.
I feel a little more distant and anonymous when I travel to Florida, like where we are now.
Yesterday on the beach of Anna Maria Island, I observed a young family. There was a mother in an adorable red and white polka dotted bikini, a daughter of about four, and a father. The father had what seemed to be a shaved head, and he sported tattoos all around his arms and torso.
I observed the couple for some time, imagining their story and their circumstances, before it occurred to me that they might very well be a military family.
I watched the dad dote upon his little girl; he appeared more enthusiastic about the sand castles they were building than even she, race as he did from the Gulf to the beach time and again, adding flourishes to their beach art.
The young mother smiled and took pictures. When the father wasn’t doting upon his daughter, he was holding his wife in his arms. As the family packed up to leave at the end of the day, I decided I just had to know their story. So, I approached the mother under the guise of “where are you staying on the Island?” and “for how long?”
When she replied that they were a military family on leave, taking a vacation before her husband deployed to Afghanistan for the next nine months, I could not believe that I had been correct in my assumption.
When this sweet young mother, Amanda, next told me that they were based out of Fort Lewis, Washington, I couldn’t believe it! Here I was on the opposite side of the country, frolicking with my family on the beach, and right next to me all day long was another family from Washington State, also frolicking on the beach.
We spoke for a while about the similarities between commercial fishing and military families. We spoke at length about the importance of being around family while our spouses are gone, and she told me of her plan to move back to her home state to be with her family while her husband is in Afghanistan.
We talked about how there’s just “nothing you can do” about the amount of time fishing and military families are separated, and we even laughed about how Skype was just “too confusing” for either one of us to figure out how to use. We also touched on how hard it is to live in the Pacific Northwest with its dreary weather if you are prone to any sort of depression or anxiety.
At the end of our conversation, I told her I thought they were an adorable family, and that her bikini was cute as well.
“Oh, do you think so?” She asked. “I thought it might be too skimpy, but I’ve been trying to get a tan.”
I assured her that both her swimsuit and her family were as sweet as could be, and then we said goodbye and I watched them walk up the beach back to their car.
In addition to this lovely family, we have run into several other interesting people on our trip. I spent an afternoon with a kind and dynamic homeschooling mother of four at our hotel pool. We swam in the Gulf with some of my “fellow” Croatian countrymen, gave directions to a nice German couple, and sat at the beach bar next to a family from London (including their son, who’d been a professional English soccer player!)
I had no idea that this part of Florida was such a popular destination for Europeans! I love talking to people and meeting people and hearing their stories, so this has been an added bonus to our vacation.
Here are a few new pictures. Let’s hope we do not get evacuated when Hurricane Isaac hits on Monday and Tuesday!