Tonight, the air is so warm and humid and the kitchen floor so sticky, I feel like I'm back in Florida, where I grew up. The trees are thrashing around so loudly in the heavy wind, it seems like a hurricane is on its way.
I was born on the cusp of three hurricanes. September is prime hurricane season in Miami, and in 1950, several circled my mother’s due date. “Charlie,” “Dog,” and “Easy” bounced over the South Atlantic as my father carried my mother’s suitcase onto the hospital elevator. When the elevator door opened, the nurse picked up the suitcase, took my mother’s hand, and closed the door in front of my father.
In the bed next to my mother’s lay a young, laboring Seminole woman who was brought in from her chickee in the Everglades. First the Indian woman was put under anesthesia and then my mother was. When my mother awoke some time later, the hurricanes were veering away from Miami, and she had a new baby girl sleeping down the hall in the nursery. The Seminole woman was gone, disappearing with her new baby back into the ’Glades.
My mother held me in her lap as we rode in my father’s ’46 Chevy along the narrow strip of asphalt that is Southwest 8th Street, known as the Tamiami Trail, which stretches a hundred and ten miles through the Everglades to Tampa on the west coast. The Silver Court Trailer Park sat on the edge of Miami, and the buildings that lined the route squatted modestly under the relentless sun. Their low-pitched roofs were designed to deflect hurricanes and the shabby porches looked like they had been through a few.
Our trailer park was lush and green with tropical vegetation and song birds. Friendly chameleons scurried across the screens of the porch my father built, which doubled as the living room for our tiny silver trailer. The heavy smells of night-blooming jasmine and gardenias hung in the humidity. Variegated crocus and palms reached over the trailer park’s crushed coquina shell road as my mother pushed my stroller along, showing me off to the other residents. One stop, since we didn’t have a bathroom in our trailer, was always the common bathrooms housed in a whitewashed stucco building with green stains creeping up the outside. My mother, who grew up in the same South Philadelphia neighborhood as my father, put me out in my playpen every day in just a diaper, because what could be better for a young child than that fresh Florida air?
(Excerpt from "Launched" copyright 2012 by Linda Buckmaster)