■ BY MARCY SHORTUSE
It’s been awhile since I have written to you all, and I wanted to catch some of you before you leave the island and go wherever it is that you spend most of your time. I hope this finds you well, and I do hope by the time you get back home there isn’t a lot of snow and cold weather for you to deal with.
I wanted to let you all in on a little secret that many of you don’t seem to understand. Keep in mind this is privileged information, so don’t go telling everyone, please. Here it is: Did you know when you all leave, this island is pretty much as quiet as a tomb? Did you know you can walk down the street and hear the leaves rustling along the sidewalk? Did you know you can hear the birds singing on Banyan Street, and that you can take a swim down at the beach without another soul in sight?
It’s all true. The silly crimes we have during the winter months become virtually nonexistent, the parking problems disappear, and those of us who actually call this place home can go eat in the restaurants and shop in the stores. We can even drive down the roads off island and not expect to be sideswiped or slammed into on a regular basis. I know, it’s crazy talk … but it’s true.
Out here on the island it can also be a bittersweet time for many of us, because we have a lot of dear friends who head back up north and we miss them. There are some amazing people, even people who are considered to be very wealthy, who actually associate with us year-rounders. They talk to us like we’re people, they don’t hold meetings about us behind closed doors because they’re “concerned,” and they actually want to be part of our community. When I say that I mean the community as a whole, too, not just the community they wish to create of the people who “matter.”
Up until the last few days I have been pleasantly surprised to find that no one made a huge fuss over the Good Friday party – or should I say “first day of spring break” party the local kids had on our beaches. On our Facebook page we posted the picture that was in the newspaper and the same cutline as the one in the newspaper, and out of the many, many comments that were made there were virtually no negative ones. A few people complained about a lot of cars, and that was it.
In general, the people who responded were amazed the world had not ended when “hordes” of high school (and some middle school) kids came to Boca Grande and had a great time on our historical district beaches. And yes, they were only there for a few hours, and maybe when they left there was some trash that remained. I just didn’t hear about the negative side of it, possibly because the people who live here, who always pick up trash on the beach walked along with their bags and picked it up, all the while counting their blessings that they were lucky enough to live or work in a beach town. That’s what the year-rounders do every time they go to the beach – they spend five or 10 minutes picking up trash and an hour or more gazing blissfully into the beautiful water and at the amazing splendor of nature that surrounds us here. Five minutes of work vs. hours of bliss … yet still people want to complain.
That party reminded me of how it used to be out here. There were always some days when you could go to the beach and see no one, but in general there were so many more signs of life back then. There were block parties held by the Chamber, and no one complained there was music past 9 p.m. Kids could run and play and ride their bikes without someone yelling at them or giving them disdainful looks. Some people would even have parties and (GASP) a fire on the beach. It was like … what’s that word? Oh yes, a community.
Now we have people sobbing in their wine about a 15-minute fireworks display on New Year’s Eve and the Fourth of July. They say the turtles will suffer, they say their dogs will suffer … but when is it our turn to be happy? We are human beings, and not all of us are joyless. We should have a couple of days out of the year to experience joy as an island family, even during the season so we can share that joy with the people who come for season who actually like to be here – people who don’t try to constantly change our island to suit their needs and to shut people unlike themselves out. Those kids who came here live here year-round, and this was their moment on the first day of spring break. There were no fights, there were no arrests, and everyone made it home safe. They had a party on what is quite possibly the safest, most crime-free beach around here. I say good on ‘em.
For the handful of you this is directed toward, feel free to feel slighted. Many of you slight us at the drop of a hat, whether you’re wishing the the toll was $50 so as not to entice people to come here, or using every trick in the book to try to get the County to restrict parking so your three or four months of idyllic living aren’t quite as disrupted. The next time you walk past one of us year-rounders on the street and act as though we aren’t there (unless you want something from us, of course), or you’ve have a neighbor across the street for years that you haven’t even deigned to wave at or speak to, you think about that. The people who watch your pretty beach homes and serve you your fancy meals and walk your dogs and leaf-blow your sidewalks are us, and we don’t want anything from you except maybe a modicum of friendliness and respect for the way we live our lives the other nine months out of the year. If Louise du Pont Crowninshield could do it, maybe you could try it, too.
Maybe, just maybe, you could have some realization of the fact that we have stood by and watched our island become a more sterile, less joyful place that looks more like Connecticut than Florida, all because of a handful of people who can’t embrace the true essence of Boca Grande.
And by the way, those precious beach accesses in the Historic District are already taken up by hordes of construction vehicles, always building those bigger and better McMansions. We can’t park there anyway and haven’t been able to for months.
For God’s sake, lighten up and let yourself relax and feel some joy.
Marcy Shortuse is the editor of the Boca Beacon