Back to Basics

This coming Saturday, my sister, Ginny, is tying the knot in our hometown of Gulf Breeze, Florida.  Since we’re here, I thought that this week I would share some of my most memorable places from around town with you guys so you can get to know the pretty little beach community that Chris and I grew up in.

Gulf Breeze is a barrier peninsula off the coast of Pensacola, Florida.  It is a beautiful little town.  The kind of place where you run into your minister, your kindergarten teacher, and the Homecoming Queen when you go to the grocery store.  I know that not everyone is thrilled with that kind of lifestyle, but it certainly is nice and cozy when you go back home to visit.

This morning when we got up, we fed The Beast…I mean, The Bean…and we headed down to Chris’ grandparent’s house.  Grandma and Granddaddy Brown were and still are a huge presence in Chris’ life.  Growing up, their home was a second home to him and since they lived just across the street from his Dad, it was an easy place to escape to.

They live right on the water and we used to go out in their boats all the time when we were growing up.  I’d head over to Chris’ house early in the morning on Saturdays when we were in high school and we’d walk down to Grandma and Granddaddy Brown’s house, usually with friends or our sisters in tow.  We’d pack a cooler of food and drinks, sunscreen (for me), and maybe a towel if someone remembered.  And then we’d head out on the water.  We’d go tubing or jetskiing or Chris would take us to a swimming hole that you could only reach by boat.

Years later, I mentioned something to Chris’ granddaddy about where we used to go swimming and he responded, “Oh, the shark hole.”  Yeah.  Chris had unknowingly been taking us to a place that is known for being a deep pit in the middle of the bay where sharks liked the cool, deep water.  They were just little sand sharks, but still.  I consider myself lucky to be alive and have all my limbs.

What I remember most when I’m at Grandma and Granddaddy Brown’s house is that they used to have a big, wooden gazebo that sat just off their beach.  It had benches around it and a little sun deck that stuck out over the water.  It was destroyed in a hurricane several years ago, but I remember exactly where it stood.

What I remember most about the gazebo was that when I was about 17-years-old, Chris picked me up for a date one night at my house and he brought me back to his grandparent’s.  We walked out back and I gasped to find the entire gazebo covered in votive candles!  They were everywhere!  On the benches, on the deck, on the steps.  The entire gazebo glowed in the soft candlelight.  And there in the middle of the glowing gazebo was a picnic dinner for two.

It was so sweet and so memorable because it was so unlike Chris.  He was never sweet!  He was never romantic!  So, to seem him go through all this and step out of his comfort zone for me melted my heart.

Which became the problem that night.


As we ate, every one of those votive candles melted into the wood of that gazebo.  Before we knew it, there were over 100 little piles of candle wax melted all over the gazebo.  We spent the rest of our night chiseling wax with our silverware.

What I also love about Grandma and Granddaddy Brown’s house is their garden in the front.  When you get to their house, you drive down a long driveway back to the water where their house sits.  Lining the entire drive are orange and satsuma trees that will be heaping with fruit in just another couple months, if the frost this winter didn’t kill them.

Granddaddy Brown spends his mornings out in these groves, taking care of the fruit but also of everything else he grows out there.  Cucumbers, peppers, pineapples, limes…  You name it, he probably grows it.

These are baby peaches.

More satsuma trees he just planted and a few fruit trees he just bought.

Red potatoes just about to bloom.

Grandma and Granddaddy Brown in their garden.

Granddaddy Brown grows the goods and Grandma cooks them up in butter and lard and bacon fat and all those things that make Southern vegetables so delicious.  In fact, Grandma cooked those vegetables for her family every Wednesday night at her house.  Wednesday Night Dinner was just what you did.  And though she sometimes switched up what meat or fish we had (her fried chicken was always my favorite), her veggies were always the same.  Heavenly.

And Granddaddy Brown did everything it took to protect his vegetative loot in order to ensure that he would have his Wednesday Night Dinner.  He used to have a cat named Kooter Brown.  Kooter would sit next to Granddaddy’s chair out in the driveway.  Right next to Granddaddy’s gun.

(PETA readers, you should probably just turn away for a minute)

So, Granddaddy would shoot whatever would get into his garden and that darn Kooter Brown would go retrieve whatever had been shot!  He was a retriever cat!  Have you ever heard of such a thing?

Kooter was a mean old thing.  He wouldn’t let anyone touch him.  But a couple years ago when he was 150,000 years old, he came up to Granddaddy Brown as he was sitting in his chair in the driveway one afternoon and he climbed up in Granddaddy’s lap and rubbed all over him for a few minutes.  And then he jumped down, went off into the woods, and that was the end of Kooter Brown.  Granddaddy thinks he came one more time to see if there was any fish laying around.

But we all know better.

I couldn’t start off a week of blogging about my hometown without beginning at Grandma and Granddaddy Brown’s house.  Some of my happiest memories from growing up were in this house, in their yard, in their boats, and around their dining room tables.  Part of coming home means coming to this home.

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32 Thoughts to “Back to Basics”

  1. Wow – that place looks gorgeous! Reminds me of vacationing on the lake with my grandparents in Northern Michigan every summer. Great memories. 🙂

  2. Is it wrong to covet Chris’s grandparents? Or at least their house?

  3. So nice, Katie. A lot of what I grew up with no longer exists, so it is really cool that you can go home to the home you once knew and have it be much like the home you remember.

    Wait, did that even make sense?

    In short, I’m jealous.

  4. I’ve spent my entire life in suburbia, and feel great envy towards people who grew up in adorable small towns – especially ones with grandparents and gazebos!

  5. What a beautiful place! And to be right on the water like that. I’m totally jealous 🙂

    Cabin Fever in Vermont

  6. That was such a great story.

  7. That was an awesome story– I can’t wait to hear more about your hometown. I feel like you could write a book with your hometown as the setting and it would be a bestseller!

  8. Jennifer

    This is awesome Katie, thanks for sharing it with us. I, too, have found memories of my grandparents’ house on Cape Cod. My grandparents have passed but the house is still in the family.

  9. Carlene

    Yay! You’re pratically next door to me! Can I babysit for you? I’m in Pace and have plenty of free time! Haha.

    Question: Who/what the hell is Kooter Brown? All I know is that sports bar by PJC…

  10. Kelly

    I just had a major “small world” moment when I read that GB is where you and Chris are from! I lived in Gulf Breeze all through high school (went to GBHS) and then went to UWF for college so I lived in Pensacola. We recently moved and I miss it SO MUCH! It really is a great little community, thanks for the reminder! And I am sure Ginny’s wedding will be beautiful.

  11. I love this!! What a wonderful place. What a sweet legacy for them to leave. Love the story about the candles and the wax. How great that you get to be there the whole week and enjoy this time all together!

  12. Enjoy your reminiscing! It is fun to get the back story.

    That candle incident reminded me of a romantic hotel stay my husband and I had once. There was a hot tub in our room and we lined the out side with RED candles. You can see where this is going, lets just say, lesson learned.

  13. What great memories! I feel warm and fuzzy without having even been there :). I love that you’re living close to home again. It’s something I’d like to do some day myself.

  14. Courtney

    Aw. What a sweet post. I loved growing up in GB. I only live right over the bridge not but I miss the simplicity of our little barrier island. Hope you enjoy your time at home.

  15. Woohoo for showing how beautiful the panhandle is! I live in pensacola and no one know how amazing this place is! Enjoy Gulf Breeze!

  16. I just was looking on mapquest of where we might be moving– Mobile, Alabama and noticed that Gulf Breeze is very close by:)

    1. Carlene

      Oh Mobile, its so dear to my heart 🙂

      I went there for college (Sping Hill), and its a great little-big city. If you do move there…live in the Spring Hill district, or somewhere off Old Shell Road. Or by the airport. Both are great areas!

  17. Mel

    Some of my best friends in Florida live in Gulf Breeze! I babysit there daughter two days a week and I was just there today! It is very pretty there. I need to actually go to the water more often. Sometimes the only time I remember that I’m on the coast is when I’m making the drive back and forth on 98.

    1. Beanie's Nana

      Every Sunday right after Church! I miss it but the whole damn fam is going to meet up there when we’re all in town for the wedding.

      1. Ha! Maybe you should call ahead to prepare them for that craziness 😉

  18. Emilyc

    What a great place! 🙂

  19. I think I need a retriever cat.

  20. Meghan

    Aaahh, Gulf Breeze……couldn’t wait to get away when I was a teenager, now I’d kill to live there again. It is such a wonderful, friendly, beautiful place.

  21. I have had lots of childhood memories stirring in my mind this past week as well.

    I love reading about your memories about as much as I have loved writing about mine!

    Enjoyed it very much!

    Y’all have fun!


  22. Diana

    Wow…what a lovely, peaceful place!

  23. How beautiful! It looks nothing like my hometown, but the feelings are the same- so many memories each time I go back.

  24. Annie

    Hey now, Kooter was not that mean…You just couldn’t touch her tail, or she’d pop you…I think she was just very protective of our family 🙂

  25. Ella

    What a lovely post. What a great house!

  26. Jenn

    Gulf Breeze is where one of my friends grew up and just moved back too… So pretty!

  27. Lisa

    My cat is a retriever cat…she actually plays fetch and will drop a small spongy ball at your feet so she can run and chase it. I’ve never seen anything like it before! That house looks beautiful, would love to have a house on the water like that.

  28. What a wonderful place to grow up! You’re very lucky that you can still go back and visit. Some of my favourite childhood memories are of time with my grandparents. How wonderful that you’re going to be able to give Bean the same great memories that you and Chris have.

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