Rand and I headed to Florida last month, since he had some work to do there. Heading back there is always a strange experience: I lived in Florida from the middle of second grade to halfway through my freshman year of high-school. Formative years, to be sure, sandwiched between my life in Washington. The result is a strange one: I’m a Pacific Northwesterner, and I’m one of the few people in the city of Seattle who was actually born here (of our friends, I can think of three). But I missed some pretty quintessential Seattle experiences – including Kurt Cobain’s death, the closing of Pizza and Pipes, and the rise of Microsoft.

Still, I’m a Seattle girl at heart. I am able scoff at the current prices for Bumbershoot, remembering when it was $17  for a two-day ticket (and wondering, on my 16-year-old’s budget, how I would pay for it). I recognize Pat Cashman’s voice on the Taco Time commercials (and when I interned at King-5, I’d freak out if I ever saw him in the halls). And Joel McHale, now on NBC’s Community, will always be Joel from Mercer Island. He will forever be the co-host of Jus’ Pimpin, wearing overalls and a backwards baseball cap, representing the hardcore streets of Bellevue.

And yet, and yet, and yet. Every time I go to Florida, I get nostalgic. I think of my time there. I sing the Indialantic Elementary school song, which I still remember by heart (it’s to the tune of “Love Me Tender“):

‘Neath the palm trees, by the sea,

Indialantic School.

In the classrooms filled with friends,

learning is the rule.

Voices raised, in your praise,

hear them proudly say:

We will always think of you

when you have gone away.

For reasons I can’t explain, I find those lyrics profoundly depressing. I always have. I’m not sure why. Growing up there wasn’t all that bad. Still, I’ve complaints. My third-grade teacher was evil. In some Oliver-Twist-like-bullshit, she sent me to the principal for “expecting too much” … OUT OF MY EDUCATION.  My fifth-grade teacher taught us to pronounced “facade” so it rhymed with “arcade”. My seventh grade history teacher laughed when I suggested that the pope forced Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel (which he so did).  It was around that time that I realized I was smarter than most of the faculty. And there was very little to be done about it.

But my friends were awesome and brilliant and I still keep in touch with them. And we were right next to the beach and the sea. Birthday parties would be spent in swimming pools or on boats (banging on the bottom of the deck to attract dolphins, which would swim alongside us and jump in front of the boat). We went to sea camp. We petted manatees on their noses and fed them lettuce. We learned how to run away from alligators (big zig-zags. Gators are fast, but they don’t turn well).

My friend Jamies birthday party, on a sailboat. Im giving my friend Becky bunny ears. I was such an asshole.

My friend Jamie's birthday party, on a sailboat. I'm giving my friend Becky bunny ears. I was such an asshole.

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And, of course, there were the space launches.

It’s funny, but I never really considered it anything special, until I mentioned it to my husband. His reaction made me realize it wasn’t a common part of everyone’s childhood. Upon hearing that the last night launch was about to occur, he mentioned that he would have loved to have seen it.

Me: Oh, they’re not that interesting. You see one shuttle launch, you’ve seen them all.

Rand: What are you talking about? Just exactly how many have you seen?

Me: I don’t know, a few dozen, I guess.

Rand: You’re kidding, right? You’ve seen a few dozen space launches?

Me: Probably. They dragged us out of class all the time to see them.

Rand: They took you on field trips to see shuttle launches?!

Me: Huh? No, no – we just walked out onto the soccer field.

Rand: (incredulous) You … you could see space shuttles launch from your soccer field?

Me: Yeah … I guess not everyone has that growing up, huh?

Rand: No, sweetie. They definitely don’t.

At the time, of course, it was just something else to complain about. Being dragged from our comfy, air-conditioned classrooms into the searing heat, standing on a shadeless field, waiting to see the orange flame tear up through the sky like we had so many times before. A few seconds after it started to climb towards space, the sound would hit us. A deep, rumbling noise that shook the earth. You felt it in your heart. And still, it was boring. It was a nuisance.

But now? Now it seems magical. So when I read that we’re down to the last two space launches, it made me a little sad. It makes me think of all those kids for whom shuttle launches on the soccer field will be a thing of the past. Because while I love Seattle, with its mountains and liberals and people who throw on shorts whenever the weather hits 60 degrees, some part of me will always be Floridian. I will always be that disgruntled, bored kid who couldn’t believe how stupid her teachers were. Who got sent to principal for “expecting a little more.” And for those who know me well, that’s probably no surprise.

I probably won’t be able to get around to see either one of the last two launches – there’s one scheduled for September, and one for November. I wish I could go – and I see the irony in that wish.  Just once more, I’d like to head out to that soccer field, and watch the shuttle go up. And afterwards, I’d turn to my third-grade teacher, who, for the purposes of this fantasy, would be there, just as I remembered her.

And I’d totally punch her in the vagina.

Full list of categories:  Random Musings
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Comments (11)

  1. 1
    Andrea says:

    1. One of the best blogs I’ve read in a while. Hats off. 2. I recognize half the kids on that boat! 3. I share a similar memory of constant, intermittent shuttle launches while standing in the heat looking over our baseball field in elementary school. I even watched the Challenger blow up from my bedroom window one afternoon after kindergarten. You totally reminded me of the silent fire, smoke… and then the sound reaching you some time after that. Thanks for the bit of nostalgia :)

  2. 2
    Everywhereist says:

    I remember the Challenger explosion, but I was still in Seattle for that. I seem to miss the tragedies … which I suppose is a good thing.

  3. 3
    Christine says:

    As a former student in Brevard County schools (the same ones Everywhereist attended), I loved this post! One, I completely remember some of the worst teachers I’ve ever had were at our junior high school. I took Civics in 7th grade and lo and behold, the teacher used the exact same curriculum and tests for 8th grade “Honors” U.S. History (right down to the answer choices on multiple choice tests). I never had to study, and the man actually LET ME SKIP CLASS 2 or 3 days a week because I was so bored.

    My favorite class was 7th grade math, because I shared it with this cool redhead chick and an awesome Italian girl who wore a T-shirt that said:

    “To be or not to be.
    — Shakespeare
    To do is to be.
    — Nietzsche
    To be is to do.
    — Sartre
    Do be do be do.
    — Sinatra”

    My parents used to work at Kennedy Space Center, and they used to think it was really cool to drag us out of bed in the middle of the night and drive us to the Indian River Lagoon so we could get an unobstructed view of night launches (space shuttle or rocket variety). My brother, sister and I thought this was a gigantic pain in the arse at the time, but our friends who grew up in other parts of the country think this is the coolest thing ever.

    At one point our school district won an award for being the most fire-prepared district in the country–all because every school did a fire drill each time there was a shuttle launch during school hours.

    I remember watching the Challenger explode (on a SUPER cold morning by Florida standards) and not understanding why all the teachers were crying. “The astronauts have parachutes, right?” I asked.

    Thanks for posting this and bringing on a nice wave of nostalgia, G.

  4. 4
    Everywhereist says:

    Oh, I remember that shirt. How the hell did I own something like that in 7th grade? :) Man, I miss you guys.

  5. 5

    Wow. This might be your best post yet. But maybe that’s because I am a (not-so-closet) space geek. I casually admitted the other day that I still know all the details of how space suits work because I read so much about them aged 7 and was shocked that everyone else didn’t. My response would be very similar to Rand’s – I can’t believe you had that experience and I totally wish I’d had the chance to be bored by seeing shuttle launches.

    Also, great ending. Only everywhereist could end a blog post that way.

    There’s still a chance I’ll grow up to be an astronaut, right?

  6. 6
    philip says:

    Back around the time of the first Shuttle launch (1981), I remember a teacher telling us that “one day, Space Shuttle launches won’t be very interesting. They’ll be as routine as airplanes taking off and landing.” We couldn’t believe it would ever be so, but to some extent he was right. At least for me, as time went on shuttle launches and landings did not warrant my attention. Thus, it was weird to hear a story on the radio about the Atlantis and to get a little misty over the news that it was on its last mission. I don’t even know what the Shuttle was doing on most of its journeys, yet I feel a distinct twinge of melancholy knowing it won’t be out there making its routine takeoffs and landings.

    Then I imagine you punching someone in the lady-parts, and I just need a nap.

  7. 7
    Shannon OD says:

    I had this *exact* same nostalgia when I heard that there are just two more launches! I’ve also seen about a dozen but it’s strange to think of that slice of childhood gone and no longer a part of the younger Florida kids! I plan on making it to the September launch though since I’ll be back home for a visit :-)

  8. 8
    Everywhereist says:

    Shannon – I hope you do a post about it, because I would love, love to read another Floridian’s nostalgic reflections. :)

  9. 9
    Candicec says:

    I have NEVER seen a space launch before, not even on video until JUST NOW!!! I want to move to Florida!

  10. 10
    Tarah S. says:

    Oh this is cool! I have been living in Florida since 2008 and got to see my fair share of launches. When I met my soon-to-be-husband and found out he worked out at the Space Center I freaked! He is an electrical engineer who used to maintain and fix the ground equipment used to maintain the shuttle while it was housed in the VAB (vehicle assembly building) and in the hangar. Now he does basically the same thing but not for the shuttles anymore. It was sad to hear of such an amazing American feat and piece of history just sorta of…retire…

    Patrick (my fiance) won some raffles they had to get a close up view of the launch and so I was very fortunate to see a daytime and nighttime launch from roughly 6 miles away. I guess it was different for me because I was old enough to appreciate the time, effort, and ingenuity that went into making those launches possible! Also, my appreciation must have stemmed from the fact that Patrick’s small contributions made the launch a success!!

    Great post :)

    P.S. I know this post is 3 years old (yikes) but I have videos and pictures of some of the last flights of the shuttle and (this is really cool), before the Endeavour went to California it did a flyover on the back of NASA’s Shuttle Carrier Aircraft and Patrick got video of it. I could totally post on my blog or send you?!

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  1. The Everywhereist » Blog Archive » 10 photos from Florida … - 22. Jun, 2010

    […] noted before on the blog how strange my upbringing in Florida strikes me sometimes. Compared to Seattle, it is a radically different place: flatter, more […]

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