When Uncle Pete drove up from Florida for Aunt Barb’s wedding in April, he stayed with Ma and me in our small gray house. His long car and Florida tag seemed so big in our small-town driveway. In this town, out-of-staters are like celebrities and the neighborhood kids stared at the tag, asked if they could get in, as if getting in the car would make them Floridians.
“You from Miami? Orlando?” they asked from the backseat, leaning out the window.
Uncle Pete, leaning against the car, said, “Naw, Pensacola,” and the kids frowned.
They all wanted to know if it was hotter there than up here and Uncle Pete said, “Much!” then he told them what he used to tell me, “Gets so hot I can fry fish on the sidewalk,” and they believed him – even Tony and he never believes anything anybody tells him.
It was the same way when I was younger and Miss Dixon’s son came to visit her from California. I was one of the kids asking if he was from L.A. or Hollywood. He was a movie star to us. He told us about beaches and good weather. That night, my dreams were Californiaful and in the morning I asked Ma if we could move, but she said “California ain’t nothing but gangs and earthquakes.”
And, that April, as I watched Ma (arms folded) watching Uncle Pete, I knew what she was thinking: “Florida ain’t nothing but hurricanes and rat sized roaches.”