Dad tries to reclaim his childhood firsts

March 02, 1997|By Rob Hiaasen | Rob Hiaasen,SUN STAFF

A blip of time ago, 30 years, my father drove the family to the Florida Keys. The trip took just under three hours. I was 7.

In January, I drove my family to the Keys from my old Fort Lauderdale home. The trip took just under three hours. My boy is 7.

The symmetry probably means something. Whatever. I just thought I'd superimpose the Best of My Childhood onto my children. Take them to the same vacation spot -- to the same restaurants, piers, same Theater of the Sea attraction, same Shell World shop.

Oh, poor, misguided parents. Don't we know we can't plan Great Times and Great Memories for our children? What was special for us must be special for our children, dammit. Now, when I was a kid in the Keys, it was a first time for everything:

First Key lime pie -- at Manny and Isa's restaurant, with the photos of baseball great Ted Williams cradling enormous

tarpons. A man never looked happier.

First conch fritters -- at the Conch restaurant, ruled by a man named Ziggie.

First boat rental -- a 17-foot Boston Whaler from Bud 'N Mary's Marina.

First time running a boat aground.

First solo skin-dive -- off the Islander resort in 3 feet of water.

First close encounter with a barracuda's fidgety black eyeball.

First encounter with an octopus spewing dye to escape.

First theft of Queen conchs -- before I knew better than to steal from the ocean.

First spin-casting rod and reel -- a Mitchell-Garcia 500: a black, clanky thing, a beautiful thing.

First major bird's-nest.

First snapper -- and grunt, parrotfish, jack and something aptly called a toadfish.

First time hooking a fish in the eye.

First time "finned" by a one-eyed fish.

First night in a hotel -- individually wrapped bath soaps to steal; ice bucket posted by the rotary phone; and one springy queen-sized bed.

First night sleeping on a roll-out sofa.

First great suntan -- compliments of Sea 'N Ski in the green squeeze bottle.

First time hair turned white -- never been so blond since.

First time seeing my mother in a bathing suit.

First and only time seeing my father in swim trunks.

First swim lesson -- in a saltwater pool at the Buccaneer Lodge in Marathon. A second lesson was canceled.

First time seeing so many fat cats on such skinny land.

First time seeing those great blue and green waters from both sides of U.S. 1.

Enough already. This isn't supposed to be about me and my childhood memories. The Keys trip was for my children. That was the idea.

That is the lie.

Pub Date: 3/02/97

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