Stardust in Your Eyes

It’s night. I’m outside looking at the stars. Tonight, my wife and I decided that we wouldn’t go on our annual vacation since COVID-19 is running rampant in Florida. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the end of the world. It’s just that now isn’t a good time for vacation.

So my wife and I sit on the porch, retelling our best vacations to one another.

Like the times we went to the Grand Canyon. I’ll never forget camping at the Canyon. The way it looks in the early morning can change a man’s life. We hiked, ate canned food, I made coffee over the campfire and burnt the roof off my mouth so bad I required a priest. It was great.

At night, we would look at the stars from the the canyon and marvel at them. Stars are funny things. You look at them every night, but sometimes you don’t actually see them.

And the Suwannee River. Now there was another great vacation. You don’t hear many people sing the praises of the Suwannee anymore, but it’s a truly magnificent piece of black water.

We went for my wife’s birthday once. We rented a canoe and trickled down the slow-moving river with our box lunches and sunhats.

A friend of mine had given me a cigar as a gift. I’d been saving it. I’d never officially smoked a cigar before, so I thought I’d give it a try on the Suwannee.

I lit the cigar while paddling and almost puked. I hated it. The lit stub fell into the water only a few feet from a large, scaly, reptilian head floating beneath the surface.

It was an alligator about the size of a Plymouth. My wife and I froze and tried not to breathe. We watched the gator swim through the water like a Biblical leviathan, and I immediately realized that I was wrong about this gator. He was no Plymouth. He was a Dodge Coronet Woody Wagon.

Cedar Key was also a great place. My wife and I camped in our old 16-foot camper, right on the water. Each night, she cooked meals on our tiny kitchenette. She chopped fresh herbs, exotic shallots, and fileted fish.

Before supper I would walk down the road to buy fresh clams from a guy who sold them out of a pickup truck. The smell was godawful.

That was a good vacation. My wife and I ate on a fold-up table while listening to the World Series on the radio. The mosquitoes were committing immoral acts upon our bodies. Detroit lost to San Francisco. The clams were exquisite.

Seattle. Oh, boy. Now there was another great trip. We went to the Northwest for my friend’s wedding. It cost an arm and a liver to get there.

As soon we I arrived, I was thrilled to find that Washington had actual rednecks. I’d always thought rednecks were an expressly Southern item.

I come from a long line of rednecks who spend the weekends working on Camaros parked beside their above-ground swimming pools while listening to Duane and Gregg sing about Melissa.

But these Pacific Northwest rednecks looked like MY PEOPLE. The only difference was they all talked like Bing Crosby.

One morning in Seattle, my wife and I woke up very early and went to the Pike Place Market. We’d heard about how great the outdoor farmer’s market was, but I was not prepared for just how great. We walked through the street arm-in-arm, like we were strolling through Paris. It was the farthest I’d ever been from home.

For lunch, we bought fresh-made goat cheese from the market, a steaming loaf of French bread, and ripe tomatoes. We sat on a park bench watching the guys in the fish market toss fish to each other. My wife tore hunks of bread from the baguette; I ate tomatoes like apples.

On our walk back to the car, there was an Asian man on the street corner with a strange musical instrument that looked like a fiddle, played with a horsehair bow. Only this instrument was made from a tuna can and a broomstick. I asked about it. He said it was a homemade erhu.

He told me that he had arrived in America recently and could not afford a real erhu. Then he played “When You’re Smiling.”

On a freaking tuna can.

His music bounced off the downtown walls. A young hipster couple started dancing. And then it started raining. It was romantic.

I would have asked my wife to dance, but we were both raised Southern Baptist and we don’t want to burn in Hell.

Cape San Blas, Florida, is another favorite place of ours. My wife I have spent every summer vacation there since the year we met. In fact, we’d be there right now if it hadn’t been for this COVID-19 business.

I spent a weekend at the Cape with my wife’s family about 18 years ago. It was only weeks after I met her. They rented a huge house, grilled a lot of food, baked a lot of oysters, and told a lot of stories.

I knew I loved her that weekend. There was no doubt about it. We walked on a beach after dark, listening to water beat the shore. We looked at the stars and made promises to each other. Because stars are funny things. You look them every night, but sometimes you forget to see them.

Well. I see them now.

26 comments

  1. Christina - June 19, 2020 6:49 am

    Beautiful memories, even more beautiful love

    Reply
  2. Arabella - June 19, 2020 9:49 am

    ~sublime ~
    I had tears in my eyes & a chuckle caught in my throat reading this. I love how you elevate the mundane into something more. My tears were memories tugging at my heart of vacations past I enjoyed with my late husband, it was yesterday and forever ago that I became a widow (6 years ago) you inspire me to think about writing down some of our adventures (for perpetuation) I discovered you just days ago listening to your audio book “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” it was So great , I’m thrilled to have discovered you and look forward to reading Everything!

    Reply
  3. Charles Mathers - June 19, 2020 10:53 am

    Good morning, Sean! I am smiling because I have enjoyed every one of the same vacations you have. Even canoeing on the Suwanee and gathering scallops at Cape San Blas back when my wife and I were camping in a tent and we were the only people there. You are right. Sunrise at the Grand Canyon will change your life. Thanks for the memories.

    Reply
  4. Jan - June 19, 2020 12:46 pm

    Loved this walk down memory lane. Thank you, Sean!

    Reply
  5. Pat - June 19, 2020 1:03 pm

    Love in the time of COVID ❤️❤️❤️.

    Reply
  6. Leslie in NC - June 19, 2020 1:07 pm

    Cape San Blas was my vacation destination for many years. Only a 2 hour drive from Tallahassee, my young son and I would camp at the campground with friends at least every other weekend. That was way before the Cape became so built up and populated. We went scalloping in St. Joe Bay and cooked them for supper on the camp stove. I always left the tent and camping gear packed in my car when we got home so it would be ready to go when we were. I haven’t been back in many years and have traded my beautiful Florida panhandle beaches for the mountains, although my son’s love of the Gulf kept him there. Thanks Sean, for letting me reminisce about a place forever in my heart.

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  7. Joyce Anders - June 19, 2020 1:08 pm

    I think that you and your wife are very blessed.

    Reply
  8. Curtis Lee Zeitelhack - June 19, 2020 1:14 pm

    I see those stars too, Sean. This time of year, I miss my old friend, Orion (he has set in the west before it gets dark now), but I know he’ll be back in the Fall. In the meantime, I’ll settle for the Big Dipper. Besides, I have my memories too.

    Reply
  9. Lee J Hackett - June 19, 2020 1:17 pm

    Best read in a while! But all your stories are terrific!

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  10. Connie Ryland - June 19, 2020 1:27 pm

    Pure magic.

    Reply
  11. Harriet - Atlanta - June 19, 2020 1:52 pm

    You nailed it with “Greg and Duane singing Melissa.“ I read that sentence 3 times. How do you do that???? Whatever “that” is , you have it!!

    Reply
  12. Molly Day - June 19, 2020 2:11 pm

    I, too, have marveled at the Grand Canyon at night. I was a teenager with my family. The moon was full, and the river was a tiny silver thread far below the rim where we stood in silence. Finally my brother said quietly, “When I consider the heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars which Thou hast ordained, what is man . . . “ What a memory.

    Reply
  13. Helen Taylor Andrews - June 19, 2020 2:31 pm

    As usual your stories always put me in the time and place with you…and Jamie, in this one. I am pleased and honored to know y’all. Your stories remind me of my late hubby who took me on the first vacation of my life. My daddy didn’t go on vacations…ever. He just worked. Mama never traveled much and she didn’t understand WHY we (my hubby & me) wanted to go ‘somewhere’…Once she asked us if ‘y’all are any better off’ (for going). I told her, ‘yes, we were’. She was stuck in her world and was content…maybe not happy….Going on a vacation with my husband made me happy…Thanks for the memories, Sean, and much love!

    Reply
  14. James e inman - June 19, 2020 3:07 pm

    There are times when the most pleasant journey is a trip down memory lane! Bon Voyage from another Son of the South!

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  15. Linda Moon - June 19, 2020 4:04 pm

    What an uplifting story for all us readers, fans, and followers! Because of it, I “traveled” back in memory to that Grand Canyon with my Grandsons. And I had movie memories of Seattle, but no real ones. Thank you, Sean, for reminding us it’s not the end of the world, so I’m glad you’ll cause this Moon (me) to see the stars in a more memorable way tonight.

    Reply
  16. Chasity Davis Ritter - June 19, 2020 5:14 pm

    I like your story today Sean. My vacation starts on about 4 hours. But we still don’t know what we’re going to do if anything at all. And next month is our 24th wedding anniversary and it’s the same thing. Such a crazy year. I think just looking at the stars sounds amazing though and taking a nap lol. We will be together and after all I think that’s still the most precious thing. Thanks for the reminder to take a better look at what I see all the time.

    Reply
  17. Mary - June 19, 2020 8:01 pm

    Sean, Take your vacation! Don’t quit living because you’re afraid of dying. It’s a win-win!

    Reply
  18. Marylin Anderson - June 20, 2020 12:17 am

    Another beautiful, heartfelt story. Thanks for sharing your vacations and your love with us.

    Reply
  19. Helen De Prima - June 20, 2020 3:06 am

    A new follower — gracious knows how many great posts I missed. Keep ’em coming!

    Reply
  20. aclownn - June 20, 2020 7:08 am

    Seattle. My town. I drove a delivery truck, parked in The Market every Thursday for 13 years. I talked to many a tourist there. Maybe you. I wasn’t shy.
    I never ate clams there, but many an oyster graced my pallet.

    Reply
  21. Bobbie - June 20, 2020 2:10 pm

    What struck me in this story, besides the beautiful scenes you painted of your trips, is the love you have for your wife and hers for you. It comes thru so beautifully. Whatever you’re doing, you’re enjoying it together. To me, the definition of a perfect marriage. You sit and actually talk about simple yet meaningful things. That’s what keeps people together. Oh how I wish I had had that. I hope you both know how blessed you are. Yes, go on vacation ! You only go around once…make it count!!
    Love you both❤️🇺🇸🇺🇸

    Reply
  22. Joyce - June 20, 2020 4:26 pm

    So well said!

    Reply
  23. Tim Koehler - June 20, 2020 5:05 pm

    I was reading and the memories all came flooding back, as I’ve been to all these places also. As I was reading I was hoping, praying you didn’t mention Cape San Blas, thinking that would be someplace you’d still go to, confirming to me it was safe. As a fellow resident of South Walton, my family goes to the Cape every summer for a week. Although only two hours away, it seems like a million miles difference and an entirely different world than here in SRB. I have been torn up, debating with the idea of going this summer or staying home. I have concluded that probably the safest place to social distance, to avoid people and keep my kids safe isn’t going to the beach here, but spending a week on Cape San Blas. Maybe no waiting in line in the morning with a 100 others for Weber’s donuts, maybe no trips to Apalachicola for oysters at Up the Creek or Hole in the Wall, but spending a week in the most beautiful spot in Florida with my family, staring at the stars at night is what I, what we need right now. Hopefully you will change your mind and we might see you there.

    Reply
  24. Tammy S. - June 22, 2020 4:03 pm

    Whether home or traveling, when you’re with your best friend, life is always an adventurous treat! I’m so glad God put you and Jamie together! What a perfect fit!! My hubby & I have said time and again in all of this “I am SO glad I’m “stuck” here with you!!” Enjoy your staycation!!!

    Reply
  25. Kay Keel - June 22, 2020 8:47 pm

    You weren’t the King of the Last Line today…you were the King of the First Two Lines of the Second to Last Paragraph…My eyes filled at, “I knew I loved her that weekend. There was no doubt about it.” Oh my…those lines could begin a beautiful song.

    Reply
  26. Joyce - June 23, 2020 2:19 am

    I am living alone with my cat, Princess, but I remember how wonderful it was to have the love of my life with me. So glad you are savoring every moment with your spouses!

    Reply

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