"It smells like Florida." Words spoken often by my younger brother whenever the summer heat and humidity reminded him of our yearly trips to Casey Key, FL. Growing up we would take off a couple weeks in March and fly down to spend the 1/2 month in a time share on the beach. The first day usually was filled with grocery shopping, claiming the best room in the house, and breaking in your beach feet by walking up and down looking for sharks teeth. Over the years we must have brought back hundreds of sharks teeth. They fill jars and bottles in my parents house and there is still a conch filled lamp in my old bedroom.
I think we started going to Florida for the space shuttle launches. My parents went to high school with Mark Lee, a then astronaut who was able to get us access to view the launches from the nearest point allowed. We'd drive out to a sandy peninsula, park alongside the road, and pull out the lawn chairs. Surrounded by water and signs that said "No swimming allowed, crocodile infested waters" we'd wait for the countdown with the other special access observers. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.... We have lift off! The ground would shake with the force of the shuttle bursting upwards, trailed by fluffy white clouds. Even after we stopped going to the launches, we still travelled to Florida in March. It was a great event to look forward to in the spring semester when wet sloppy snow and cold mornings were the daily forecast.
There are many memories from those trips.
The little wood stilt shack on the beach that leaned more to the left every year.
Surviving the small off shore hurricane where they evacuated us from the peninsula, dad grabbing at flying deck chairs trying to get them into the garage, me being semi-delusional from a weird illness I was sure was Red Tide.
All the crazy animals washed up on the beach after the storm. Those gross black snakes that would slither along the white house and freak my mom out. The Doberman Pincher guard dogs that chased my brother and sister after they got too close to the Mob neighbor's mansion. Charlie the Crane (who I'm sure was a different Crane every year) walking on the deck. Picking up free old loaves of bread from the store and throwing the crumbs into the air for the seagulls to dive and catch.
Mud pies and sand castles. Lobster dinners and the time our uncle visited and was red as a Lobster from falling asleep in the sun. Orange groves and fresh squeezed juice.
But I never remember any key limes.
Key Lime Filling
1 can evaporated milk
1/2 cup key lime juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt
Mix all ingredients together and pour over pre-baked crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when tested.
Graham Cracker Crust
8 graham crackers
4 tbsp butter
Crush crackers up and mix with melted butter. Press into pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes until slightly brown.