"The Social Network of the South"
The long, cold New England winter has made the first taste of spring all the sweeter. Of course, spring did not come to me. I had to chase it down in Northwest Florida. And that was no easy task. But three cancelled trips, a stomach bug and ear infection later, I am sitting on the back porch listening to the waves crash on the Gulf of Mexico.
Heading home to the panhandle of Florida has not just warmed my body, it's warmed my soul. I have soaked up every last ray of sunshine and love during this vacation. I've missed the slower cadence, laughter with family and friends, sugar-white sands, fresh Gulf seafood, eye-popping azaleas, slamming screen doors and sweet tea. (Thank you Martha Foose for the best cookbook title ever.)
The down-home feel and sense of belonging when I come home is not exclusive to the South. Beachside villages and towns along the Atlantic seaboard from Sag Harbor, L.I. to Bar Harbor, Maine have been calling families back to the New England coast for generations. Clam bakes, oyster roasts and days spent on the water around weathered cottages remind me of days and nights along Gulf Coast beaches like the one that is framed by Highway 30-A.
Southerners have been flocking to South Walton for one hundred years. My own family has been going there now for over three decades. The tradition continues again this year as Kate and Jack celebrate their spring break from school along the same stretch of beach highway their parents did before the first Seaside cottage was built.
I have no doubt that a generation from now, their children will be slamming screen doors, gulping sweet tea and playing in the same snow-white sands.