There was an email going around my family today linking to an article that lists the top 10 Shell Collecting Beaches. After so many empty promises of Nigerian riches and HGH-fueled feats, here was an email that delivered the goods. #1 on the list was Sanibel. Though the sands of time have rushed through the hourglass these last 28 years of my life, it was as if a shell disrupted the flow one day years ago when my family decided to take a "day trip" to Sanibel from Miami - and time slowed enough that we could savor each other's company and the delights of Florida's west coast at a snail's pace.
I think it started with Aunt Mary Ann and I conspiring to spend a glorious day gathering shells and sand dollars on the prickly beaches of Sanibel Island. Jeff and Jennifer were game, Macon and Jason had the aerobie ready, and Mary was gnawing on a My Little Pony. The idea was quite disagreeable to Mom and Dad had to work. I told Mom, though, "Make the best of it; life is what you make it." She didn't really appreciate my remark, but she decided to go along with the plan.
We spent what must have been 8 hours making the 3.5 hour trek to Sanibel, but so much the better. We had just enough people to claim every seat-belt in the van, so no one was lonely for any stretch of the time. I thought it might be fun to play a game, but Mom shot that idea down.
When we arrived, we realized that we weren't the only ones who'd had a great idea. Our new friends were jamming the bridge onto the island with all of their cars. Once we got onto Sanibel's streets, we had several go-rounds on the island looking for a parking space. It was like we'd arrived at a surprise party for us that was so packed with well-wishers that we could hardly get through the door.
The next part is a little fuzzy. I think we found a handicap space at a 7-11 where we stopped long enough for Macon and Jason to hop out of the car, find the Gulf of Mexico, and release the Aerobie back into the wild green waters of the sea.
By then the sun had started to set, and, unfortunately, all of the restaurants on the island were only taking reservations for breakfast the next morning - dinner was booked. We did find a gas station in Florida City, though, that had some "pizza" deal where you get 3 slices with a fill-up. It was tasty, and a good excuse for everyone to share with each other. I'm pretty sure Mom wasn't pleased with this solution, but she bought a pack of big league chew and listened to her heavy metal in silence.
Something about the "pizza" must not have agreed with Macon, because he threw it up into the everglades at some point on the way home. We all had a good laugh about that, though. You know that comforting feeling you get after you throw up - we were all having that feeling then.
It was a special time - and I treasure my memory of it.