I could walk to the beach with my eyes closed. Out the door of my grandma’s peach-colored house onto the hot pavement of a quiet dead-end street, past the house with the ferocious dogs and year-round Christmas decorations, left at the creaking iron gate, over the canal on a wooden bridge, through the tunneling sea grapes, and down the boardwalk to the sparkling sea.
The phrase “cocktails on the beach” probably brings to mind soft jazz and piña coladas. But for me it’s the little clearing surrounded by spiky tongues of Sansevieria where we’d sit at a warped wooden picnic table to watch the sun set. It’s the ancient palm tree that grew horizontally along the ground and the wild mangrove jungle where small monkeys shrieked and swung above our games of hide-and-seek. It’s the feeling of being seven years old: tan, skinny, with a week’s worth of saltwater matted in my hair.
When my niece was born on a rainy Minneapolis evening back in February, my mom and I had big plans to toast the new parents with a bottle of champagne. Life quite literally intervened, however, and between figuring out the car seat at midnight and a barrage of diaper washes, we completely forgot about the bubbly.
Fast-forward two months to when I met my mom, uncle, sister, brother-in-law, and niece in Florida to celebrate properly. Idouna slept peacefully strapped to my sister’s chest as we gathered the essentials for cocktails on the beach: plastic wine glasses, champagne, and an oversized bag of pistachios. We toasted our little February baby to the sound of the April waves.
We spent the rest of the week eating plantains by the pool. I fried the pale yellow slices in butter and salt and served them with beans, rice, and fat slices of ripe avocado.
When we weren’t cooking simple dinners or eating pistachios on the beach we went to The Alchemist, where we drank from whole green coconuts, swirled condensed milk into our sugary iced coffees, and ate open-faced sandwiches on black and white butcher paper.
Determined to find authentic Cuban food, we found our way to an open air sandwich shack where we sipped ice-cold mango batidas and ate massive Cuban sandwiches while rumba blared from the speakers.
I left feeling more like the 7-year-old version of myself than I ever could have hoped, complete with peeling tan and hair full of sea salt.