Cape San Blas—The Gulf of Mexico is outside my window. I am eating breakfast. These are some very good biscuits.
Biscuits are the reason I am writing this. I love biscuits, you see. When I was a boy, my mother made them by dusting the counter with flour and stamping dough with a drinking glass. Hers were big enough to be used in professional wrestling matches.
Right now, my wife and I are in Cape San Blas, staying in a rented beach house with the windows open. The kitchen is tiny, but my wife managed to whip up magic.
In its lifetime, the cape has seen its share of hell. Four historic lighthouses have come and gone due to hurricanes. Storms have been beating this peninsula ever since Adam’s heyday.
Recently, Hurricane Ivan, Katrina, and of course Michael. But you can hardly tell it. The remote cape looks as lovely as it always has.
“If you live in Cape San Blas,” said one local man, “you expect things to get rough, but we don’t worry too bad, that’s life, man. You get your tools and rebuild.”
There’s something poetic about that.
Years ago, I had the first breakfast my wife ever prepared for me, right here in Cape San Blas. We weren’t married. I was a younger man.
My father had been dead for years. I was damaged goods, but somehow I managed to get a girlfriend. I was staying with her family in a rental house on the cape. That first breakfast lives in my memory.
Her father was frying sausage, her mother was eating a grapefruit with sugar, and her brother was getting his fishing rods ready.
There was an old man in a recliner, they told me he was a politician once. He wore seersucker. He was reading the Port Saint Joe Star.
Breakfast was a grand production. And my girlfriend, Jamie, was in charge of making the biscuits. She was fixing her Granny’s recipe and I almost proposed.
My mother used to claim that the way to a man’s heart was through his digestive tract. She said if a girl wanted a man to love her, it wasn’t hard. All she had to do was mix flour, sugar, butter, and eggs together and pretty soon a ring would magically appear on her finger and she’d start popping out babies.
Years later, I would discover that my mother was very wise.
After breakfast that day, Jamie’s brother took us fishing on his boat. We trolled Saint Joseph Bay. I caught two tripletail and a sunburn. That night, we cleaned fish, then Jamie fried the filets in peanut oil. For side dishes she made biscuits and cheese grits.
It was a night to remember. The food, the open windows, the sound of the Gulf, a breeze rolling through the house. Before anyone touched their forks, the politician bowed his head and said a few words.
Then we ate. And ate. And ate. Until I finally, died from overeating.
At that meal, I probably made a lot of important life decisions. I probably thought things like:
“I am never going to let this woman leave my line of vision.”
Or: “I wonder if this woman likes dogs? Or kids? How does she feel about NASCAR?”
Jamie and I walked the beach that night, we let our feet get wet in the Gulf. And I felt like I was brand new with her.
My life has not been a pretty one. In fact, my childhood was downright ugly. Hurricanes have hit me and my family, and torn down our lighthouses.
But looking at those stars hanging above the dunes of sea oats, I told myself this was probably what the doorstep of Heaven looked like.
I asked this woman what she was thinking.
She said, “Well, I was thinking about how nice the cape is. What about you? What’re you thinking?”
“Oh, I was just wondering what you were doing for the rest of your life?”
Oh my God. What a stupid, corny thing to say. How embarrassing.
They weren’t even my words. They were song lyrics from a Michel LeGrand album. I remembered them from a record my friend’s mother used to listen to when she smoked Winstons and cross stitched scripture verses onto dinner napkins.
But I’m not sorry I said those words. Not after all these years. It felt good. Speaking in song lyrics.
The cape does that to a man.
I remember it all. Here, the breeze blowing across a breakfast table. The seersucker. I remember a kid who used to be cynical about all this world offered. Who almost gave up on things like love, and people, and happiness. A kid who rediscovered his own life. Who learned that people can be rebuilt, just like beaches.
I forgot what I was talking about.
Oh, yes. Biscuits. These are very good biscuits.