Glenna Blomquist has lived in Florida for 15 years and is still exploring what it is to be a "Floridian". Now retired, she has time to recollect and time to experience each moment as new. So she writes, weaving her childhood appreciations into the experience of her older self, offering up lyrical pieces with universal appeal.
PARADISE MOBILE PARK
It seemed to her that the airwaves were more transparent in Florida, and that the mobile was like a home with no walls: welcome to drafts, fauna, humidity, heat, cold, sirens, and signals from the WWVB Atomic Clock time signal transmitted from Colorado.
The Florida landscape had sucked her in right away. Coming from the plains of North Dakota – where God meets land into an endless horizon – Florida had the same feel, the same sparseness of trees, the frontier history. North Dakota had the Minuteman missiles that introduced the fly-boys to the locals; Florida saw thousands of young military men positioned at coastline air and naval bases. So it was the Cold War that brought many to odd places to make their mark on the local populace.
As a young girl visioning life-at-large through a small Sylvania screen, she knew Florida to be a vacationland beyond compare. Lucy, Desi, Fred and Ethel drove to Florida in a pudgy classic convertible, scarves and banter flying. What an adventure! They had Catalina swimsuits and all the tropical glitz that hotels and motels could push on the public from ubiquitous highway billboards. Water and rhinestones flowed in hotel lobbies with names like The Fontainebleau, La Flora, the Coral Reef, the Sand Bar. The whole state was captured in a leisure newsreel in her memory. Now here she was, with intent to live out the rest of her days in the retirement dream that to this day lives in the hearts and minds of many.
She often reflected on the twist of fate that placed her in a 55+ trailer park with a sweet, retired husband and two house rabbits. It could have gone either way – the northern life in the magical Lake Woebegone, or the Florida life in classic tropical ambiance. She and her family were living too modestly, partly by intent and partly by necessity. Gone was the downtown penthouse condominium in her adopted Minneapolis; gone was the semblance of staunch middle-class life assuming season theater and orchestra tickets and university lecture series. Gone was a certain knowledge that everyone knows their place, and their place is in the Midwest.
She experienced Florida as a free-flowing canvas of pawn shops, bail bondsmen, and check cashing establishments. It took awhile for her to understand what a “cracker” might be; and in fact, maybe she still didn’t have a true frame of reference. She understood that people converge on Florida like ethnic Europeans on the plains of the Dakotas. She grew up with diversity, among Germans, Swedes, Russians, Poles, Lithuanians, and Dutch. It suited her well to be amid dialects and multiple flavors of religion and politics: Christianity, socialism, communism, and atheism. Of her four bachelor uncles, each subscribed to a different philosophy; and furthermore, she didn’t see a problem with a Baptist being a socialist.
So how could Florida be her adopted home? Was it the small town feel, the international flavor, the remnants of Southern hospitality? Perhaps the jealousy of her northern friends who wanted to abandon their expensive mortgages and buy trailers in a humble park?
Her waking moment had captured all these questions in a flash, and there was no time to reflect on anything big today. The rabbits were hungry, and she was off to work. It was another day in a different place doing the same things she had always done. Backing her pickup truck out of the lanai, she passed the neighbor’s pink flamingo in front of his proudly-painted lemon yellow doublewide. She loved to see the flamingo lit up at night all year round. Every turn through the park brought her to another small daily joy: the egrets pounding out the ground with pointed beaks, hunting for a delicate, fleshy breakfast treat; the pendulous grapefruits in the Canadian’s yard; the octogenarian in her bathrobe walking her little dog.
She thought maybe someday she would retire in this paradise, but the smile on her face says she may already be there.