The holiday of love and romance is upon us. Pink and red hearts decorate retail stores; restaurants advertise two for one specials; the hotel industry creates “romantic weekend getaways;” and that odd little winged cherub appears everywhere, bow and arrow ready. It’s a very special time for me for a couple of reasons. First, it’s my birthday. Conveniently I was born on February 14th amidst the Valentine hoopla, and with all the “gentle” Hallmark and retail reminders, my husband has not forgotten my birthday even once. But the real reason it’s a very special time for me has more to do with Marco Island.
Living in the Midwest, each fall we looked for a warm vacation spot to spend a week in the winter. Leaves changing color in Iowa was not a sign of autumn for us, but instead a bold reminder that cold and snow would soon be landing on our doorstep. So we looked south and ended up here. We often stayed at the Radisson Resort Hotel because it was in our budget. We’d spring the extra bucks for a beachfront unit and sleep with the sliders open so we could hear the surf at night. On the morning of my birthday, we would make a run to the Chocolate Strawberry for a beautifully wrapped box of ripe strawberries covered in my favorite food group…chocolate. We would spend every day on the beach regardless of the weather, because no matter what the conditions were here, it was better than what our family and friends were experiencing in Iowa. I remember renting cabanas just to block the wind so we could lounge comfortably in 60-degree sunshine.
Each night of our Marco vacations we would take a beach towel to the edge of the surf for sunset. We couldn’t possibly imagine a single one of our precious seven nights here, without taking in the sun setting over the Gulf. Dinner was not nearly as important as was the experience of sitting on the sand for sunset. Sustenance of mind and spirit trumped food every day of the week.
The scent of warm, salt air. The rumble of lawn mowers and smell of fresh cut grass. The sound of birds singing. The beautiful array of color provided by flowers growing outside in February! The ability to go for a run in shorts and a t-shirt. The smiling faces of other joyful vacationers, like ourselves, grateful for their limited reprieve from a northern winter. This was February to me. This was my birthday.
On occasion we brought the kids with us on our winter escape. We upgraded to a two-bedroom condo and utilized every square foot. We never traveled to Disneyworld. We didn’t even take them for an airboat ride. Instead we brought a 99-cent bag of plastic army men to the beach for the boys and beach towels for the girls. The boys created sandy forts and stick ships for their rubber soldiers while the girls read books and soaked up the sun. As a special treat we sometimes went to the little lunch kiosk at the Marriott and ordered tuna melts. They became known at home, in our Iowa kitchen, as Marco Island Beach Sandwiches. We still call them that today, and the kids request them whenever we get together.
Recently, in my realtor role, I was showing a beachfront condo to a customer of mine. The unit was several floors up and the view was spectacular! The lines on the beach created by a recent raking were interrupted below by footprints and pathways created by beachcombers. My client joked that if he bought the unit he would want the beach raked smooth every night. As I peered over the railing at the sand below I was struck by a memory from many years ago. I was in our rented condo here on Marco and the kids were with us. It was my birthday morning and evidently the kids and my husband were awake long before me and had disappeared on a secret mission. My attention was drawn to the lanai and the beach beyond, and when I got to the railing of our building I looked out to the water and then below to the beach. There was my family looking up and waving from a freshly created message in the sand. It said “Happy Birthday Mom” in giant letters created by small footprints.
So pink hearts and Cupid have great significance to me, not just because it’s my birthday. More important, they are a reminder of this beautiful place where I once spent precious days of vacation. Where everything I encountered, from the beautiful landscape to the lush tropical aromas, were memories to be savored and carefully stored until our next February holiday on Marco Island. Valentines are my reminder to not take for granted that I live where I once vacationed. Valentines remind me that I am living my birthday wishes every day of my life. Pink hearts and Cupid. Marco Island, Be Mine.
Laurie Kasperbauer is an active Florida Realtor specializing in properties in Naples and Marco Island. Laurie also enjoys the spiritual and physical benefits of yoga practice and instructs both group and private classes.