Fried Soup

My Florida

This evening we drove from Tampa to West Palm Beach so that we can to spend the next several days at my parents’ retirement community mobile home. For past two years, my father has served as the pastor of a Thai mission church in West Palm. He and my mother spend about half of every week here as part of their ministry. The other half of the week they spend in Tampa where they can be on hand to help my brother Anek when he needs it. Anek is the owner and currently sole technician of S.K. Garage, the automotive repair shop founded by my father some 30 years ago. The “Garage” as we have always called it, was a central location in both our childhoods, serving at various times as our residence, our playground, our summer camp, and our earliest place of employment. To this day the sound of pneumatic tools and the fragrance of grease and motor oil never fail to make me nostalgic for a time when the two of us used to run around the shop on little blackened bare feet, play fighting and pretending to be Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. You can probably imagine then how amazing it is for me to return to see my “little” brother deftly doing the heavy repair work that in my mind had always been my father’s special magic.

Now though, my father has moved on to a higher calling than auto repair, but his new career requires that he make the nearly five-hour drive across the Florida peninsula twice a week. Fortunately, he has always loved to drive. So many of our family vacations were of the driving variety, and the only thing he ever needed to keep him happy all those long hours was for one of us to sit in the passenger seat and keep him company. I have always wondered whether his love for the open road stemmed from a childhood spent planting rice and caring for chickens and water buffalo in rural Thailand. He told me once that the life he currently lives would have been completely unimaginable to him as a child. There just wasn’t anything like it in the world where he grew up. So I think that even today, whenever he has the opportunity to drive anywhere in his adopted America, he doesn’t see it as drudgery as you or I might. Instead, he treats it like a rare privilege.

In any case, there was little chance that this evening’s drive would prove dull as dad had a lot of family to keep him company. In fact, I’m betting that he was wishing for a little less company after the first hour or two spent confined to a minivan with his two giggling, screeching, and easily bored granddaughters. I know I was. Not long after sunset though, a light rain began to fall. Then suddenly the sky all around us lit up with a spectacular summer lightning display. The girls were instantly riveted to the windows as electric blue bolts came, not just in ones, but also in twos, threes, and fours, simultaneously branching across the heavens. With every flash the girls let out delighted squeals and pointed in three directions at once. Then they waited impatiently for more. When it was finally over, Jeliya declared that we should all live in Florida – just to watch the sky. I really have to admit, at that moment, I was incredibly tempted to agree with her.

(Incidentally, Brieana illustrated the drive on her blog here.)

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