Weekends we took long drives around the county, the city, to various parks, the Everglades, and the ocean with its glorious beaches. There was the thrilling trek on the long, narrow, rickety bridges of the Overseas Highway to Key West. Seeing a huge tractor-trailer truck barreling toward you on the Seven Mile Bridge, you couldn’t help but hold your breath and brace for the shudder as it thundered by.
I learned to drive on the Overseas Highway, turning back before the toll booth at Lower Matecumbe Key.
As we became involved with the community, my mother, Josephine Tilden, became president of two school PTAs and started the South Florida Weavers guild, becoming the state president. After my father died, she designed and built her own house among Redland pines. My father eventually retired from the planning department of the Dade County Schools, and proceeded to tend his “farm” surrounded by grandchildren and, at various times, cats, dogs, chickens, turkeys, rabbits, a horse (Tommy’s), a cow and a bull (Bobby’s), a pigeon named Henry, and Charlie, a vocal bantam rooster that followed him everywhere.
We children grew, married, settled or scattered, and multiplied.
I spent almost 26 years editing Sea Frontiers for the International Oceanographic Foundation on Virginia Key. Billy died in an auto accident during Orientation Week as he entered the University of Florida . Tommy, a retired Marine, is a veteran of the Korean and Vietnam wars. Bobby retired from the school system and moved with his family to the mountains of northern Georgia.
In 2012, Tommy and I are still here, confirmed Floridians, as Grandfather had planned—and not “out West” as our parents once dreamed.
P.S. Since writing this story, I regret to add that my brother, Thomas Tilden, passed away Oct. 1, 2012, just three weeks shy of his 78th birthday.