I arrived in Sarasota Monday afternoon. Aunt Helen's service was Tuesday morning some 90 miles north of there. After brunch with my cousins and assorted kinfolk that morning, I returned to spend the rest of the day and another night at The Cypress, nothing on my agenda. Here's a slide show with some shots of the Inn, and a few random glimpses around town.
Nina, Vicki, and Robert were friends in New Jersey who packed it in a decade ago and headed south, determined to start a bed and breakfast under tropical skies. They had a vision. The Cypress was what they envisioned. They eventually found, and bought the old house. In due course their investment of toil, sweat, and greenbacks produced the timeless kind of old Florida retreat you've always imagined. At every turn there's some lovely, welcoming detail. A view of Sarasota Bay, dotted with sailboats, shimmers from the front porch. Breakfast, the day I left, was fresh fruit, morning-made blueberry-peach muffins, and the kind of omelet you've always imagined an old Florida inn would serve.
Our extended family, my mother's three siblings, and some nine cousins, lived within a bike ride of one another in Michigan. I would often steal into my aunt Helen's house and tinker on the piano in the basement long after her own children had lost interest in the old upright. She not only tolerated these often unmusical musings, she let me come and go as I pleased. When we did cross paths, a hug and a kiss would send me on my way. Or else something from the oven, cookies, a piece of pie, a morning-made muffin, would slow me down. We'd sit at the kitchen table talking and laughing and chumming it up the way only an aunt and her nephew ever can.
There was an old baby grand in the parlor at the Cypress. I sat down, folded back the cover, and played a few notes. It sounded a lot like aunt Helen's old upright. With nobody around, I played my Chopin waltz. The one I thought she'd like.