Florida Grown


By Heidi Hess

“Why do we live in Florida?” my beautiful, sulky teenage son asks. The disdain in his voice is palatable. And even though I don’t think he’s doing it on purpose, he’s doing a fabulous impression of Edward Cullen. 

“Well, we live in Florida for a lot of reasons.” 

This was the start of a long conversation we had while we were hiking on our summer vacation. The Great Smoky Mountain National Park is one of the greenest places. Each turn in the trail reveals a new verdant vista. We were all in awe of the parks beauty. Even my kids were. 

“First of all, the beach is nearby and the Atlantic is just a few miles away from us.” I started. “Second, the Everglades is in our backyard and there’s only one other eco system like it in the world.” I continued even though they were unimpressed. “And besides being theme park capital of the world, we also have the oldest city in the country.” 

I could have kept naming all the things that make Florida awesome but after watching how unimpressed they were I realized I have not been the best ambassador for our state. 

Shame on me. We go on vacations and make sure to visit all the things that make other states great but what have I done (besides sing the praises of the o’mighty mouse and hold court on the latest rollercoaster) to show the kids what makes their own state “The Bomb”. 

I made a silent vow on that trip that we would live like tourist here. I want them to feel the call of the ocean when they haven’t seen her in a while. I’d like them to appreciate the chorus of chirps from the crickets and frogs that make their home in the Everglades. And yes, still pay homage to the o’mighty mouse. 

What can we do to be a better ambassador for your state? How can we get our kids to love where they live? I pondered these questions while we hiked. 

Watching my kids climbing the rocks made me pause. A beam of sunlight peaked through the canopy and lit them up. I fully expected to see my sullen sulky teenagers “sparkle”. But they aren’t fictional vampires from Forks. They are like Florida – beautiful and special all their own.