March marked the month that we returned to Pensacola, Florida. Our three-year stint will see Sampson on the other side of the “Cradle of Naval Aviation,” this time as a salty, fleet-experienced aviator dispensing wisdom (such as the best places to get brunch in Bahrain) rather than as a shiny student trying to drink from the flight school fire hose. In some ways, it doesn’t seem like it’s been that long since Sampson was the one sporting butter bars on his freshly issued flight suits and striving for the day he’d add Wings of Gold to his name patch. In other ways, it feels like a lifetime ago.
The last time Sampson lived in P-cola was in 2006, before we were married. I visited him there a few times, and I remember finding the area pleasant. Of course, I could have been viewing things through the rose-colored lenses of one getting to spend a few precious weeks here and there with her long-distance fiancé, but I did recall enjoying the beach and McGuire’s and the zoo that let me feed a giraffe for the first time. (Giraffes’ tongues are startlingly long, purple, and probing when you see them up close. Their eyelashes are also long, but not purple.) It’s been a lot of fun exploring the area from a resident’s point of view rather than the touristy perspective of my seven-years-ago self.
We have now lived in Florida for a full season, from the vernal equinox through today’s summer solstice. As we mold our lives to the rhythm of the year in a new part of the country, I look forward to seeing how we turn and return and grow with the passage of the next eleven or so seasons.