We were all friends from my UF days, and were all Corry residents. Since graduation, we have all gone our own way, until fate intervened in the form of our return to US after nine years. Similarly, the Lins and the Yaos have not met for almost equally as long, though the wives have kept in telephone contact.
So we all marveled at the passage of time, and how that has been most dramatically seen in the growing up of the children. From them being cradled in the arms, as school children being herded into the school bus, to being young men and women in their own rights, exuding confidence and hope for what lies ahead. But most agreed that their broad features remain unchanged, only the height and the girth have expanded, filling into sinewy muscles and humanly proportional shapes.
The parents engaged in nostalgic travel back in time, constantly throwing out names of old acquaintances, as if to test the veracity of each other’s memory banks. The children, despite the substantial separation of time since they last saw each other, some as toddler playmates (or even younger), soon engaged each other like old friends, nary an iota of inhibition like strangers do when they first cross path.
We had dinner at China Buffet, going-Dutch style, and sampled a wide ranging gourmet offering from sushi to seafood galore. The Lins, the Yaos, and one Lee (my wife) soon dug into the crab legs and the mussels (the former), supplemented with sushi and kimchi. I stayed with the grilled salmon, and one Californian roll. The seafood fest took almost two hours. Then we adjourned for more chitchat during which Yao expounded at length on the recent bridge collapse at Minnesota (Yao works for the Florida Dept. of Transportation).
The wives called up another old friend at Atlanta and took turn to exchange old tales with her. The young adults and teens were upstairs doing their own stuff, broken by intermittent laughter. My wife brought out some wine bottles, and those who were not driving soon indulged in some social drinking (yours truly excluded, but I too could feel the cozy atmosphere of a bunch of old friends sharing congenial company over a healthy dose of alcoholic ingestion).
Soon it was near midnight and the Yaos picked themselves up to return to their Lakeland home while the Lins put up a night in our humble abode.
Next morning, we brought the Lins to the Lettuce Lake Park for a stroll along the boardwalk. But we found the path to the Observation Tower condoned off, presumably because of repair work. We greeted every visitor that we came across along the boardwalk, and there were many, it being a Public Holiday (Labor Day), comprising all ages. There was a crying baby in prams (I could sense why because his head was covered with beads of sweats). Then there was this toddler wearing a T-shirt that says My Name is Trouble, strutting on the boardwalk in tiny steps, seemingly determined to forge ahead toward something. His trailing Dad said he was after the alligator. Yeah, right.
And when a group of teenagers walked toward us, one of them broke rank to solve the mystery of the pinkish looking cocoon things that seem to adhere to tree trunks at several places, just above the waterline. In one of my earlier visits, I had ventured that the pink cocoon “could be an ant nest, or it could be one from which some insects could emerge.” Boy, was I wrong.
“Those are apple snail eggs,” the teenager said as-a-matter-of-factly. Huh? Time to be humble and maintain silence. Sure enough, when I wikipediaed the term when I got home, they are exactly that. In fact, the wikipedia article continues, "The Family Ampullariidae — commonly referred to as apple snails — are tropical and subtropical freshwater mollusks which are peculiar because they have both gills and lungs." So, they're kind of amphibian too.
There were also many middle-aged parents with their kids, one of whom was actually in roller blades (I mean the parent), smoothly pushing a stroller in front when gliding effortlessly.
Lastly, we crossed path with an old couple, possibly in their late 70s. Yes, we would like to do that when we are at their age. And a silent pact was formed with my wife, by way of a knowing nod to each other.
So, a great time was had by all, the only blemish being the rain washing away the planned visit to Clearwater Beach, much to the chargrin of the twin sisters. But we would make up for it on their next trip.
Here are some shots taken during our outing: ferns/lichens, a butterfly, a bird, some purplish flowers, a tree with its reflection on the water surface, and Spanish moss dangling from the tree branches of a statuesque tree. On the Spanish moss, I had told Mrs. Lin (Huang) that the plant is not parasitic. But I was only partially correct, as the following excerpt from the relevant wikipedia article (what else?) reveals, under the heading "Sun-blocking epiphyte":
"Spanish moss is an epiphyte (a plant that lives upon other plants; from Latin "epi"=upon "phyte"=plant), which absorbs nutrients (especially calcium) and water from the air and rainfall. Spanish moss is colloquially known as "air plant". It is not a biological parasite in the same sense as another epiphyte, mistletoe (it does not burrow into the tree and suck out nutrients)- however this is using a technical meaning of "parasite" of the biological community. By using a tree's structure it blocks out sunlight that would otherwise fall on the host tree's own leaves. The amount of sunlight it blocks is proportional to the amount it reduces tree growth depending on the tree type. On some trees only smaller or lower branches will die but the tree will grow at a slower rate. It can grow so thickly on tree limbs that it gives a somewhat "gothic" appearance to the landscape, and while it rarely kills the trees it lowers their growth rate by reducing the the amount of light to a trees own leaves. It also increases wind resistance, which can prove fatal to a tree in hurricanes."
I thus stand corrected.