Monday, April 8, 2013

waldo sexton.

Waldo Sexton must've been a real kook. Seriously: If A&E's Hoarders existed in the 1930s, Mr. Sexton and his collection of wood and antiques would air during sweeps week. He collected ships' bells and cannons, leftover tile, wrought iron, stained glass, lanterns, paintings, and sculpture. Made from driftwood and decorated these oddities from estate sales and flea markets, The Driftwood Inn and the Ocean Grill are two surviving Sexton establishments, both of which jut out into the sands, giving patrons sweeping views of the ocean.

I come from a long line of long-time fans of both establishments. When my great-grandmother lived in Vero Beach as a widow, she did not have a working kitchen; but she did have a running tab at the Grill. And my grandfather is not short on stories about the type of crowd that spent the day at Waldo's, the Driftwood's watering hole. These days, on the Friday or Saturday night before Easter, my whole family on my mother's side--my grandparents, aunts and uncles, and 13 cousins--gathers for a meal none of us have to look at the menu for. We order the local fish (usually pompano), the house salad with the house dill dressing, a side of creamed spinach, and either the key lime or pecan pie. Mmm mmm.
When we all dine at the Grill, Lolly makes reservations at the largest table in the restaurant, which seats 14. It's stationed beneath a huge iron chandelier--a fixture that's been the centerpiece of the restaurant since it opened more than 75 years ago. Now, of course, we don't all fit at the center table, and have spilled out into other spaces. (As more cousins turn 21, those other spaces have included the bar, which overlooks the ocean. Not bad.)
At some point during the meal, my mother shuffles us outside to take a picture. The winds coming off the ocean always make for interesting hairdos. 
A challenge I had as a new mom was learning to keep Cecile up past her bedtime. At just shy of six months, she's a terrific sleeper--bed by 8 p.m., up the next morning at 7:30 a.m. The trade-off is that she's one tough girl after 7 p.m. My dad walked and walked and walked her throughout the entire meal, and the poor thing looked just so darned tired. I was so worried taking her off schedule would have her waking in the middle of the night again, but it didn't change anything--thank goodness. 
During the entire trip the majority of my immediate family stayed at The Driftwood Inn. My parents' room was located in the original portion of the inn, which was built at Sexton's private residence, but was so intriguing to tourists Mrs. Sexton often put them up for the evening before sending them on their way with breakfast in the morning.
Cecile really got to know her granddad this trip. They were good buddies :)
Baby girl had no trouble finding time to nap on this trip. Unlike her rigid bedtime, naptimes come wherever and whenever. Here she fell asleep on the couch in the living area of my parents' room, which opened to a balcony of fresh sea air. What a life, right?