Strangely enough, I remember the actual travelling better than our, approximetely, two weeks’ stay there.
My uncle and his wife had moved down to Florida when he retired. They’d owned their home there for quite some time before, but lived in Michigan and Illinois before. Their home was a regular, bungalow style, along a sleepy, little street where most of the houses looked the same. All the people in the houses were also people that had retired. Their next-door-neighbour had a kidney-shaped pool, which I came to take advantage of … a lot!
This street was parallell to a kind of inlet from the ocean … Each morning, I brought my coffee down to this ‘wharf’, and watched how a school of dolphins passed by. They were jumping up and down in the water and looked so happy. Those were unforgettable moments to me. [this is the same picture as yesterday because I have only one]
The white bird you can barely see in the photo — I think it’s an egret — was there every morning. I tried hard to get a shot of him, but with the Kodak Instamatic it didn’t turn out as well as I wished. Apparently I was into bird photography already then but didn’t know it.
We arrived in the middle of the night, so then we didn’t do much else but falling a sleep. The second day though … Margret, my aunt, had invited all of the people in this street to their home. She had baked. Pineapple-upside-down. Strange things you remember, huh … bear in mind that this was 1979! She told them all that we were from Sweden … several people had that mixed up with Switzerland. Mum, as I said, didn’t speak one word of English, but chatty as she was, she somehow managed to communicate with all of those little, old ladies. She kept in contact with them for the remaining part of her life, with Christmas cards and such [that I wrote for her].
The next day, we went to a birthday party. It was a poodle named Teddy who turned 2. All the same people were there, and they all brought gifts for Teddy. My mum, as I said, being chatty as a magpie, just couldn’t allow for the language barrier to stop her, so seeing the same little ladies again, was like she were seeing long-lost friends!
My uncle [mum’s half brother], who was the big, silent type, and I went to the grocery store at one point. In the store there, they had piled up HUGE water melons in an open section. I’d never seen such big water melons before, I wasn’t even sure what they were, so I asked my uncle and he told me they were water melons. A little old lady approached us and said to me: «Excuse me, but I couldn’t help hearing what you were talking about. Where are you from???» I told her I came from Sweden, and that left her with a sort of blank expression but she said «Oh, I thought a person who didn’t know what water melons were came from the mountains or so…» My uncle got mad, because she was being nosy, so he told her off.
My aunt Margret was very ……. close to her money … so she never turned on the a/c. This was the point in my life when I realized that I don’t handle heat very well. I became very good friend with the neighbour … Christine, so I spent a lot of time with her, and their pool. Their son Doug came down from Savannah, GA … he had a convertible and we were out driving around in the evenings, which was very nice. He was an art director at some advertising company there in Georgia, and he knew of the Finnish textile company Marimekko very well [which I found impressive then]. Before he arrived, Christine and her husband Emile, told me their son lived in Savannah. I don’t know if I mis-heard what they said or if I was just mixed up in general because I replied: «Oh… Cuba!» On top of that, I immediately realized my mistake, turned red as a tomato, and tried to smoothen over my mistake but that was a little late … gawd, I was so embarrassed!!!!
I often went to the beach. Margret wouldn’t let me drive the car, so my uncle and I went. As soon as we were out of sight, he let me drive 🙂 The sand was much more … compressed, than what I was used to, so they could drive on the beaches. You could drive on the beach all the way to Daytona Beach if you wanted to.
After a few days, my cousin Rita came down from Chicago. That was great! I’d met her when she visited us ten years earlier and we’d kept in contact by writing letters. She and I had a really good time. One night we went into Daytona Beach and went to the movies. «Deliverance», with Burt Reynolds. Ughh.. During the film, there was a thunder storm going on outside. I’d never heard thunder that bad … the whole building was shaking!
Rita decided to take us all out for dinner one night. She wasn’t familiar with the place so she allowed for Margret to decide the place. Turned out to be a big hotel along the beach in Daytona, the restaurant was sort of Hawaiian. They hung those flower garlands [leis], around our necks. Rita and I didn’t want them because we felt so touristy, Margret got mad and said that we had to wear them! I have no idea what we ate. At another occasion we went and had dinner at a restaurant called Sandpiper, and there I actually do remember we had turkey and it was good.
After Rita had gone back to Chicago, we went on the, almost obligatory, trip to Disney World in Orlando. That was a full day event, of course. Of all the stuff I saw and experienced there, two things stand out in my memory: They’d made like a replica of the White House with very realistic wax figures of all the presidents. They had recordings of many of their voices, so they turned the lights down dim and they ‘spoke’. It felt very real. The second thing was a film in a movie theater where the screen goes around the whole place … it feels like you’re IN the movie. At the end of it, which was shot from a fire truck in San Francisco, you just wanted to grab the bar in fron of you when they drove down-hill.
We had an open ticket … we only knew which week we were going to fly back — not the day. That had to be confirmed by calling Scandinavian, and once we’d gotten the date we had to arrange the flight from Daytona back up to NYC. I had an 800-number to call … I wasn’t familiar with the concept of toll-free numbers back then. Christine helped me with this because Margret didn’t tell me it was toll free and wanted to charge me for the call. At first, it was some trouble finding a suitable flight to JFK … we would fly in to LaGuardia and there was a helicopter transfer in between the two airports. I would have loved that, had I been on my own. Eventually it was all straightened out though, found a flight with Eastern straight to JFK.
On that flight … my Mum and I were talking … in Swedish, of course … and as we were about to land, the steward overheard us. He said to me, «so you’re going back to the Old World?!» I replied, ‘Yes … Sweden’. «Oh, Sweden!!! I’ve been to Amsterdam (!)» he said… At that moment we were already taxing in to the terminal so I just mumbled something because I saw a plane from American Airlines out on the tarmac where people were sliding out on those white things they put out in emergencies. The thing was, during our stay in Florida, American Airlines had a terrible accident at O’Hare in Chicago, where 273 people died. It was kind of eerie to see AA again, but I don’t think what we saw was anything serious.
The night flight back to Europe was eventless, we touched down in Bergen, Norway in the morning … we all had to get out of the aircraft. The feeling of fresh morning air was priceless! My only visit in Norway, by the way, and that was really brief.
Drove back to Härnösand in my car that was hot as an oven, and went back to work the following day with a terrible jet-lag.