Finding my kindred spirit

Florida trip to see family leads to discovery of an older me

Emery with Kate, Kate’s husband, Jay, and her uncle Conrad having dinner on the carport.

The start

Last April, I decided to go on my first Big-Girl trip and fly myself to Florida to visit my aunt and uncle. I needed a relaxing break midway through a taxing semester.

Nevermind the fact that I was an active participant of weekend festivities.

My body needed a bit of a rest to say the least.

Fair Lane Acres in Bradenton, Florida was my spot for the next week. I settled into my Aunt Jill’s guest room in her and husband, Conrad’s, trailer.

Jill and I spent the next few days shopping at local yard sales and thrift stores. We even made it out to a few of those touristy shops that always have those mini license plates with your name engraved on them or the $9.99 T-SHIRT SALE.

The best thrifted finds were found in Conrad’s mysterious shed that I soon discovered is where he stores lots of collected vintage items.

He had about 15 Time magazines from the early ‘70s he said I could keep. As someone who loves to create mixed-media collages, I was in heaven.

Jill and I spent our evenings out on the carport where we would sip on glasses of red wine or fresh margaritas that Conrad would make for us.

I would flip through one of the many vintage magazines while we are waiting for my other aunt and uncle, Mike and Linda, to peddle their way over to us on their electric bikes for a dinner whipped up by Conrad.

Our evenings would finish up with a surprisingly relaxed discussion about politics and it was exciting that my older relatives valued the opinions of the youth.

The middle

On Wednesday, my cousin Kate arrived in town with her husband Jay and their two kids,

Evan and Reilly, to stay with Mike and Linda for the next few days.

Although Kate and Jay are about 20 years older than me, their youthful energy is unmatched.

Over the next few days, I spent many evenings having long conversations with Kate about my time at school.

She debunked some of the “wild child” rumors curated by our family during her 20s.

She gave me some big sisterly advice on what I should and shouldn’t do in college and reassured me that I shouldn’t feel guilty about smoking the occasional cigarette to fulfil my Audrey Hepburn “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” fantasy.

Jess Emery enjoying margaitas with her cousin Kate and her aunt Linda during her trip to visit family in Florida.

The end

Friday was my last night, so I decided to go out to some live music to celebrate a perfect week with family.

The whole crew shoved into the old light blue Chevy Uplander that’s been in the family for a few generations and has driven us from Bradenton, Florida to Essex Junction, Vermont and back more than enough times.

We arrived at the small dive restaurant and took our seats only to be informed that everyone under 21 has to leave at 9 p.m.

Mike and Linda took Evan and Reilly home and told Kate, Jay, and I to enjoy our last night of vacation.

I was relieved no one questioned my age, considering I was the youngest one there by far.

I mean like 30 years at least.

Jay ordered Kate and I some beer and we headed out to the dance floor.

The crowd consisted of mostly folks ranging from ages 50-75 all swaying and singing along to a cover band.

One woman in particular was having the time of her life.

She looked about in her late 60s early 70s and was wearing a patterned top, long denim cutoffs and a pair of brown cowboy boots.

Her blonde hair was wild as she hooted and hollered to the music, dancing with her arms spread out wide.

I admire people so deeply that are so shameless at having fun.

I sipped on my cold beer feeling like I just got away with murder while I was totally overzealous to dance to a shitty cover of Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll.”

I was receiving lots of stares from the surrounding crowd, but that’s typical for a person of my age in a group of people their age.

I was in the middle of head banging my way through the fifth rock song they played in a row when the older woman I had spotted earlier approached me.

She grabbed me by the shoulders and most people would be alarmed by this but I just wanted to know where she was planning on going from here.

“I just love your spirit,” she shouted into my face.

“Thanks! I love yours too!” I shouted back, giggling through my words because, what the hell was going on?

I observed with a wide smile on my face as sweat droplets formed on this woman’s face, aged with sun and wrinkles, bleached blonde bangs stuck to her forehead and all.

She exclaimed that she was turning 70 tomorrow and that I reminded her of herself when she was my age. She told me to keep being young, so it won’t ever go away even at her age.

Just before we parted, she pressed her forehead right against mine.

I thought she was going to kiss me.

They say curiosity killed the cat, but what can I say, this woman was like a mouse being dangled right in front of me.

“Keep that beautiful spirit of yours,” she told me.

I looked at her gratefully as she shimmied her way back to her family.

I hope that woman had a fabulous 70th birthday.

Safe to say, my first ever Big-Girl trip was a success, and I will forever hold dear the margs, the magazines and the memorable woman who might just be my kindred spirit.

Emery, left, and her cousin Kate, right, at the restaurant where she met the 70-year-old woman she saw as her kindred spirit.

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