Magic Miami: healing foreign feelings
“So, where you all from?” the question shot across the elevator straight at us. It was our first morning ever in Miami, and we were heading down to the sand and sea. “Germany?” the gentleman answered his own question with a question, as he blatantly gave me and my boys the once over.
Standing there in my bikini, feeling a bit naked and exposed, I was startled for a second into silence. The elevator was suddenly cold. “California,” I replied for the three of us as we all smiled awkwardly.
“Huh,” he seemed stumped for a moment. Then his face warmed and widened into a smile, “Could’ve sworn Germany.” Our faces widened right back at him. “Nope, just LA.”
Well that was the first time my family’s country of origin has been questioned anywhere in our country, but not the last time in Miami - ‘Where these boys from?” “You all are not from here.” “Hmmm, you all must be from Germany.” Seriously, Germans must love Miami!
My boys and I couldn’t help but imagine what it would be like if we were from another country. And what if we were, with just a little question or comment, made to feel like we don’t really belong. This small slice of what it can feel like to be seen as foreign, even in your own home country, even where you know you belong, was going to teach us. Travel likes to be the teacher. I don’t think she can help herself, and I am ever grateful and growing because of it.
Our first day in Miami had some more surprises in store for us. The shock of the warm ocean water was exhilarating, especially for a mama who hasn’t been in the water without a wetsuit for a decade! And the clarity!
“I can see my toes, mama!” my eight year old giggled, “I can see fish, I can see EVERYTHING!” To put it nicely, where we live the water isn’t quite so translucent.
“I can float!” my 12 year old lounged back on his ocean water bed, “It’s sooo easy!” And he wasn’t alone. Men, women and children waded in fluorescent pink and green and baby blue blow up plastic donuts for hours. Some of the grown ups smoked stogies delicately balanced just above sea level. Up and down, up and down, bright human buoys where the surf meets the turf in Miami. This water was medicinal. And these people knew it. This was not the Pacific. And I was being schooled and seduced by her right coast sister.
All day our first day, over and over, we wrestled in the salty turquoise shallows. I swear that I am good for one round, typically, maybe two. But here, splashing through cozy foamy goodness, it felt amazing! I felt amazing! When they tapped out, I couldn’t get out. I was a mermaid, all wrinkled toes and fingers, completely a kid again and at one with the sea.
You know that feeling you think a vacation should have? Well a few days in, I realized I was having that feeling. I stood there wondering on our teeny tiny balcony overlooking the vast Atlantic ~ the welcoming waves, the fluffy white sand. “Wow, it’s right there, right here!!” That’s it! I would be driving two hours easy to take my kids to the beach in LA, and another hour or more to crash a pool. Ahhh yes, no driving, no nasty traffic and the stress of it! We have what summer promises right outside our door.
True. But that wasn’t just it. As the days rolled along, there was way more to why this vacation was feeling like a vacation….
When was the last time your bathing suit was your uniform?
Or you felt a breeze across your belly and your back every single afternoon?
Or didn’t bathe for days because the ocean washed you?
Or didn’t brush your hair because the wind did?
Or felt the earth beneath your bare feet, between your toes instead of socks and shoes?
Or, in other words, got to be a kid again?
This is what I am talking about. Vacation!
Maybe we need to redefine vacation.
Vacation - noun, va·ca·tion \vā-ˈkā-shən, the chance to be a kid (again).
Maybe Miami was feeling like a vacation, because we all needed to feel like a kid again. Our past school year had been a rough one. Let’s just say for a host of reasons, sixth grade kind of sucked. Come to think of it, maybe sixth grade sucks for a lot of people. I know it did for me. Some places it’s in middle school, some places it’s not. Sixth grade doesn’t really know where it belongs, just when kids start to wonder where they belong too. At 12, kids start to become not kids. They can’t help it. And this can hurt, a lot. Younger siblings start to lose their best friend. Parents start to wonder where their eldest is, even when he’s standing right there. And the 12-year old can start to wonder and worry about everything.
We were all feeling, perhaps, a bit like foreigners in our own family, a bit like we don’t belong, and we do at the same time. Growing pains can be like this. And what happens to one in a family happens to all to some degree. I thought that all this is a bit sad and hard, but natural. I thought this is our new normal and that my job is to open to change and accept it with as much ease as I can. And then, Miami happened.
It was August, and we were in Miami for three weeks to be with my hubby while he worked. So I was solo mostly with the boys. And truth be told, most of our time in Miami, my guys wanted to “chill out” aka be on a screen of some sort, way more than I wanted. And truth be told, when parenting solo it’s easy to want your kids to be on screens way more than you really want them to. So we made a deal. Every other day we would go to the beach, “chill out” a bit, and the other days we would adventure out and do something “that only happens in Miami.”
As you may know, Miami is the United States and Cuba and The Caribbean and Central and South America and Europe and more, all woven together. Over our three weeks, we had a big beach bag of adventures, so big, I must simply play favorites for you. Each one of my picks, coincidentally or not, is an art adventure. No real surprise I suppose, being that Miami is the US home of Art Basel, the international premier art show for galleries and patrons. Miami’s art scene is simply put, stunning. That being true though, I chose these adventures to share not solely because the art was so great, but more, because of what art can do to and for us, as children and adults, and for what art did to and for my family.*
How To Sked 'Magic Miami For YOUR Family':
Fly into Miami International Airport, which unlike many other metropolitan airports is very close to the city, 20 minutes to Miami Beach www.miami-airport.com
Rent a car or not. Your choice! This is a city of freeways and thoroughfares so easy peasy by car. Parking can be a problem. Uber is strong there, but not always cheap.
Rent a seaside condo in (northern) Miami Beach with pool, gym and tennis courts at the Akoya. You won't be far from the eternal party of South Beach but not too close either. www.akoyacondoassociation.com or www.airbnb.com
Shop for the local international flavor and your family's fridge at the local Publix markets. The tea section alone is a real life lesson in geography.
Stay still and float on the salty sea. Let Miami have her way with you.
Need or want anything else?? Leave a note in comments, and Lara will get back to you.
- *Lara's Miami Art Adventures coming next week. Read another piece by Lara: The Second Time I Ran Away From Home