hamburgers and dirt roads

We spent a Sunday evening at my parents’ house recently. My husband and I decided around lunchtime that day that we’d invite ourselves over since we hadn’t seen my parents in a week or so. Our plan was have an easy dinner of burgers and roasted potatoes. My children love going to their Nana’s house, and they were thrilled when we told them of our afternoon plans. It was a lovely warm spring evening, perfect for firing up the grill and taking advantage of the beautiful weather.

I grew up in a small town in northern Florida, just about 45 minutes from where I live now. I wasn’t born there, but I spent all of my remembered young life there. The town had a population of 500 people then, and the population now is only about 30 to 40 people higher than that. There was one blinking light at the crossroads in the center of town. It wasn’t until I went away to college that the county replaced the blinking light with an actual stoplight. The stoplight took some getting used to; there were lots of red-light runners in the beginning.

Dad's herb garden

My parents lived – and still live –  just outside the town limits, down a dirt road, with no real neighbors to speak of. In fact, I think that a big part of why I now live in my little preplanned, white-picket-fence-wrapped neighborhood is because I craved a real neighborhood for so long. With white picket fences. And neighbors.

burgers at Dad's

"fingerling potatoes"

I didn’t care all that much for my little hometown by the time I was a teenager. It was so isolated, with too many green cow pastures, too many farms, too many innertube rental places, too many trees, and not enough happening. I was a country girl (yes, I’ll finally admit that) who craved a city life. Not even a huge city, mind you. Just one with more than one stoplight.

contemplating the grill

Flash forward to 2010. I’m married with two children of my own – a six year old daughter and a three year old son – and we live in a lovely little neighbhorhood in a city with close to 259,000 people. My kids ride their bikes up and down sidewalks instead of county roads and dirt lanes. There are homes to our right and our left, and in the early evenings we can sit on our front porch and watch the neighborhood kids hanging out with their friends – walking together, riding scooters, or whatever else kids do.

And now? Now I adore visiting my parents in that tiny little north Florida town where I grew up. I have a new respect for the peacefulness and serenity that come with life in a small town. I love the green cow pastures, the farms, the trees, the lack of people, the quietness.  And despite how tacky they are, I have even become fond of the innertube rental shops that fill with tourists in the summer months.

my boys

And the burgers out there are really good, too.

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9 Responses to “hamburgers and dirt roads”

  1. 1
    SMITH BITES — April 6, 2010 @ 10:29 am

    Awwww – love this post! And such a cutie little 3-yr old!

  2. 2
    Truettgator — April 6, 2010 @ 1:06 pm

    The mayor lives INDSIDE the towm limits!

  3. 3
    Macaroni Mama — April 6, 2010 @ 4:45 pm

    How sweet.

  4. 4
    Liren — April 6, 2010 @ 6:28 pm

    What a sweet post. It’s funny how life works. I grew up in a very urban neighborhood, not quite Manhattan, but certainly urban, and now I enjoy suburbia more than I had ever imagined. I guess that means my kids will end up city dwellers. You have a beautiful family — it’s nice that you can see your parents often!

  5. 5
    merrygourmet — April 7, 2010 @ 5:40 pm

    Truettgator – You’re right, as always. 🙂

    Liren – Thanks!

  6. 6
    Cecelia Thompson — April 7, 2010 @ 10:33 pm

    Great post. Those potatoes look amazing. I grew up in Gainesville, FL and now live in North Carolina – and have a little blog too!

    • 6.1
      merrygourmet — April 8, 2010 @ 8:12 am

      Cecelia – so glad you found my site! Still a Gator even though you’re off in NC?

  7. 7
    Chris — April 8, 2010 @ 9:17 pm

    Dangit! I was trying to guess without clicking on the link and was wrong. I ruled out Starke because of the population and thought maybe Waldo. How they heck did I miss the innertube rental comment? Ichetucknee, I feel so dumb!

    I traded the back roads of Florida for the back roads of the Smoky Mountains in 2000 but loved this post. It reminds me of flat lands and moss laden trees.

    Great post.

  8. 8
    Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite — April 10, 2010 @ 2:01 pm

    Aw what a lovely tribute to your home town!

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