I’ve always been a big fan of symbolism.  I like books and movies that let the reader or viewer deduce their own meaning at the end.  And oftentimes, when I let myself, I find myself just enjoying “a moment.”  And when I say it in quotation marks, I hope you get what I mean.  It’s that moment when I can step back from something as simple as walking through the parking lot into work and recognize that the smell in the air is catapulting me back to another time when I was young and just opening the door at my grandparents’ house to breathe in the early summer morning.  While smells are a big trigger, it doesn’t always have to be an aroma.  Sometimes a general “feeling” will all of a sudden hit and I’ll recognize that “hey, I know that feeling.”  That feeling is what sophomore year of college felt like.  Or something of the sort.

Am I losing you?

Anyway, I’m getting all deep on you because recently I watched home video of one of my last nights working at the restaurant in Florida.  If you don’t know me well, let me fill you in.  Back in 2007, Tony and I had this crazy idea to pick up and move our life down to Florida.  We were young and thought it was the right time to sow a few wild oats (not that Tony hadn’t sown enough in his youth, but that’s a whooole ‘nother blog post, ya’ll).  Anyhow, my aunt, uncle and dad were planning to open a new restaurant and we were hoping to help out.  While it was busy getting started, my aunt and uncle were nice enough to provide us with jobs working at their other little seafood restaurant on the water. 

It wasn’t anything fancy.  In fact, if you were to drive by, you might pass it up thinking it was a condemed building on the bay.  But, damn if it didn’t have some of the best seafood ever.  And while the business prided itself on being local, the tourists eventually figured out the gig and this little place burst at the seams every night.

And for that entire year I was homesick and felt a little…misplaced.  Tony and I loved living in Florida for certain reasons, but there were others that made it frustrating (helllooooo tourists). 

To make my long, drawn-out story shorter, I dug out my camcorder the other day that had footage of the last Sunday Tony and I worked.  Sundays were special because it was our “family” day down at the restaurant.  Cousins, aunts, uncles, parents, kids – we all worked that day together.  So at the end of this last shift we all went running off the end of the dock in our work clothes.  And the video is priceless.

It made me realize how nostalgic I am about that time in my life now that I can remove myself from it and look back.  I remember the frustration of living in a tourist town and feeling like I wasn’t sure where my life was headed.  And in the end, we ended up moving back to Wisconsin because, well…sometmes you can’t beat home.  But I also remember the camraderie we had at that little local place and the pride we took in the area.  I still talk about crabtraps and different types of saltwater fish like I have at least some idea of what I’m talking about.  Which is pretty cool, I think.

I remember having sing-a-longs at night when the last customer would finally leave and we could turn up the radio and have a dance party as we washed dishes and picked at the leftover hushpuppies and stuffed shrimp. 

And while, at the time, I felt annoyed at myself for leaving a fulltime job in an office setting to work at a little restaurant on the docks, I realize now how important that was for me.  How important it was for me to let myself live for a year without any immediate career path or lofty goals.  It was exactly what I needed for the moment.  That ability to clean up the docks at the end of the night, joking with the other employees, and inhaling that distinct salt water smell.  The biggest worry I had was if a partner in crime and I would get caught feeding the fish potato chips to hear the little crunches as they’d scramble to the water surface.  And if that’s the biggest worry I had at the time, I think it was a pretty successful year.