The distance between Pawleys Island and Miami is an 11 hour drive or a 2 and a half hour flight. But it took me 30 years to arrive at my destination. 3 decades to get to this moment at The Royal Palm Hotel in Soiuth Beach, Miami, Florida. I have visited this place once every decade since my twenties so you would think it would be familiar to me. But it isn't. Has Miami changed over the years? Or have I?
The Miami of my twenties was The Fontainebleau Hotel. Grand, glamorous but decaying like an old movie star still desperately clinging to the past. The trip with my mother and younger sister was a wonderful respite from the stress of my life in NYC as a recent college grad trying to make it in the competitive world of finance. My pale city workaholic skin freaked out when confronting the strong Florida sun so I had to spend the days covered in a towel in the shade, dozing in and out of a Benadryl- induced sleep. A highlight of the trip was our dinner at Joe's Stone Crab from which we had to race to the hospital because I had an allergic reaction to crab. I was highly insulted, as only a 20 something would be, when the ER doctor asked me if I was 16. I was so desperately trying to be a tough grown up city woman! How dare he think that I was just a teenager on vacation with her mommy. The sun and the crab of Miami ripped off my carefully crafted disguise of sophistication and independence. It made me feel like I wasn't so tough, after all.
The Miami of my 30s was The Delano. I had never seen anything like it. The all white rooms, the only spot of color coming from a perfect green Granny Smith apple perched on a corbel like a piece of sculpture, were a revelation to me. The bright Miami sunshine and the bright white interior seemed so right. So beautiful. So clean and pure. The white drapes in the lobby sensuously swaying in the breeze along with the over-scaled furniture made me feel so sophisticated and cool. I was a sponge, drinking in every single detail of this hotel. As impressed as I was by the style of South Beach, it also made me feel a bit insecure. Actually, it just shone its bright light on how I was feeling at the time. No matter how hard I tried, I felt like I just couldn't be perfect enough, shiny enough or exciting enough.
This room has a bit more color than the first room I stayed in but it's still has that stark white that so struck me years ago.
The pool at the Delano Is always a "scene"
The Miami of my early 40s is a bit of a blur. You see, I was newly divorced, the single mother of 3 young daughters, ages 6, 8 and 10. We came to Miami and stayed in South Beach two nights before boarding one of the hulking cruise ships dominating the horizon of the harbor. I was extremely uncomfortable with my newly single status. Afraid to make eye contact with anyone for fear of having to engage in conversation, I kept to myself, just focusing on my children. I don't remember anything of that stay except for this feeling of trying to hide. I wasn't able to see anything. Relieved, we boarded the ship and I never thought I would come back to South Beach.
The Miami of my early 50s is a very different place. No, the hotels are all still here. The Delano still has white drapes swaying in the lobby, the beat of the music is still constant, and the Art Deco style is still striking. But what I notice now is different. I am struck by the beauty of the colors of the sky, sea and the palms, and the wrinkled smile of the uniformed housekeeper wishing me a good morning. I delight in the beauty of my daughters faces as they laugh about something I do I or say.
So, I think I answered my own question. I have changed. I am so grateful and thankful to be exactly where I am at this moment in time: whole, happy and healthy. Through the grace of God, here I am again back in South Beach but I am different. No longer trying to be tough, or perfect or safe, I can just see things as they are. The beautiful and the ugly. Welcome to Miami!