Spoonbills, White Pelicans & Seashells, o my!

I’ve wanted to return to Sanibel Island since I originally left it after a day visit in 1964. The island has been legendary as a mecca for masses of seashells on its shoreline deposited there because of its unusual placement in the Gulf of Mexico, close to Ft. Myers, FLA.

In the 60’s we took a small ferry to the island, as we noted with some sadness that a few large bridges were being built to connect the island to the mainland.  At that time, as I remember it, the island was largely undeveloped, the beaches knee deep in alluring seashells, largely untouched.  The shells were almost overwhelming in variety.

Sanibel takes some getting to, but when I learned there’s now a ferry from Key West, I became determined to check it out again after 60 years. Who knew what we would find or if, once the bridges were complete, we’d find the island we were initially drawn to now a fading image, something like our younger selves?

Ft. Myers Beach

It was easy to sense that Ft. Myers Beach, where we landed for our first night after the ferry ride, had a dark side, despite the bright citrus colors most buildings were painted as a colorful ploy to suggest upbeatness.   Seamy bars lived in each “resort” where one could disappear for a lifetime. Alfred Hitchcock could have used it brilliantly.as a movie set.  If I had been five years old, I might have thought it was beautiful.

Someone on the staff had a talent for making towel animals.  Poor bunny.

I woke up in the morning grateful for not having any bedbug bites and eager to get the hell out of there and on to Sanibel!

Sunrise, sunset. Updated.

sunset on Sanibel

No way I would have recognized Sanibel. I felt grateful that it obviously was being taken care of, despite the inevitable development after the bridges came on the scene.

There are no food chains, no billboards, all tasteful but uninspired building and lush landscaping, and groomed residents, you get the picture.  We drove through a beautiful  wildlife sanctuary where it was easy to spot oblivious roseate spoonbills and white pelicans luxuriating in the late afternoon sun. 

It’s a mid -western retiree’s heaven.  Bicycles abound on the long straight roads through the mangroves, but the real excitement takes place at the beach at the crack of dawn, as obsessed shellers greet the day by beach combing for special shells, still fairly abundant.

Nature’s Show

Nature is the show here in this natural paradise.  Humanity has  intruded in a respectful and fairly sterile mode of development. There are no inspirational flashes of creativity that are apparent to me.  They are setting aside large tracts of land and mangroves in a continuing effort to preserve.  I admire that.  But where is the artist’s input? Those in charge have played it very safe.  I understand that.  But a little EDGE would have been fun and stimulating and have really added to the mix.  It’s not too late. See Naoshima and Setouchi Triennale.

 

the White Pelican Gang
Roseate spoonbills!

Speaking of the beach, it’s gorgeous and uncrowded, walkable for miles, which I was too lazy to do. We watched sunrise and sunset from our motel room window and a full moon rise in the early evenings. Perfectly satisfying.

View from our motel room, The Shalimar.

When I casually asked my husband if he would like to return, he said, “been here, done that. ” Not the response I’d hoped to hear, but I understood.  His fishing attempts here yielded nothing, what did I expect?

I would still like to return, but realize it probably won’t happen.  It’s just that time of life.

Remembering Bess

undergarments 1950's
My Mom center, L daughter Lara  and R daughter Brett .

We’d always celebrated my Mother’s birthday on January 3, until she informed us one day that she learned upon  getting a copy of her birth certificate, that her birthday was really January 2!  We all shook our heads in disbelief, but there it was in black and white, Jan 2.  These days, since she is no longer living, I tend to think of either or both days as her birthday.  This time of year triggers memories of Bess.

I easily remember her coming into my bedroom before she went to sleep , to kiss me goodnight. I always pretended to be sleeping, but waited patiently most nights for her sweet kiss.  What a nice game. I never did ask her if she realized, I’d been awake, all those times.

I loved to watch her get dressed to go out with my Dad.  Her bedroom, next to the bathroom, a little misty from the shower she’d just taken.  The door to her closet which held the only full length mirror in the house, would be ajar as she checked her progress.  Those were the years when a woman’s undergarments set the foundation for a well dressed woman. For a young girl watching the armor  applied to tame the mature feminine body, it was nothing less than fascinating.undergarments 1950's

 

My mother never ever got dressed without pulling on her girdle first.  When I questioned her about the procedure, she told me in no uncertain terms that she felt undressed with out it. I took her word for it and stopped inquiring.

Following her lead, when I became an adolescent, I decided I needed a girdle as well before going out on a date.  As a dancer, at this time of my life, I was very slender.  My Mom tried to tell me I didn’t need it, but I would have none of her reassurances.  The purchase of a girdle was a right of passage and I was hell bent on wearing one.

I got a stomachache midway through the date evening, excused myself, went to the bathroom and quickly pulled off the now loathsome girdle placing it in the trashcan, before returning to my date. Liberated!

Mom’s summer cologne in those years was usually Mary Chess, white lilac.  My love of the scent of lilacs equaled or surpassed hers and I too wore Mary Chess until it stopped being produced in the early ’60’s.

The choice of shoes completed her outfit and preparation.  She had about a dozen options, neatly displayed on her closet floor.  Years later, her oldest toddling granddaughter was attracted to that closet as if by a magnet.  She’d chose her (Mom’s)shoes to wear by some mysterious process and proceed to wear them around the second floor of my Mom’s house for several hours.  Mom never objected.

Today, I wonder how my Mom’s life might have been different if she’d been born a decade or two later.  She was one of the few working women I knew.  All of my friend’s moms were stay at home.

Mom put a lot of energy into making her home attractive and vibrant.  She boldly painted her kitchen ceiling red. She did not hesitate to go all white in her living room, reupholstering and recarpeting as needed.  The only caveat was it was not a room for children, only for company.  If kids tried to skirt the rule she’d quickly ask them to leave.  She cleverly converted New England antiques into working partners in achieving the look she sought.

She always needed and wanted a broader life, but my Dad insisted that if she was to work, it could only be for him, as a cashier in his grocery store.  I know she had bigger dreams, but never went after them.  She adored my father and stayed by his side, seldom complaining except when he spent most of Sunday golfing.  All through my childhood, she repeated to me, “Get out of Holyoke!”

I got the message along with the Mary Chess.