M. SCOTT MORRIS: Jay plans Christmas in paradise

By M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

Jay Bell, my good friend from “Bradenton-Fun-in-the-Sun-Baby-Florida,” will spend Christmas Day in paradise
“Oh, palm tree. Oh, palm tree. How lovely are thou fronds,” he sang.
“Don’t sing,” I said.
“Sorry,” he said. “I don’t know what got into me.”
“But fronds was a good word.”
“That’s what we say in Florida all the time, which you would know if you lived in paradise.”
I wouldn’t call myself jealous of Bell’s life on the Gulf Coast, with its emerald waters, luscious sands and, yes, palm trees. Maybe someday, I’ll get to call a beach town home, but I’m content in Northeast Mississippi for now.
Every so often, Jay calls me from Siesta Key and describes the sun as it slips beneath the sea, and my sense of contentment wavers a tiny bit.
“Jealousy” and “envy” are too strong, but I’ve been in that ballpark a few times since Jay emigrated from “Hotlanta” to the Sunshine State.
“We’ve got it going on,” he said. “You should come down.”
“You should move up here to God’s country,” I told him.
Sometimes he doesn’t respond, and other times he laughs at me. I can’t blame him. It’s been a good move.
I’ve learned that if you ever find yourself estranged from family and friends, move to “Bradenton-Fun-in-the-Sun-Baby-Florida” or another resort destination. Your family and friends will come to you.
That’s been Jay’s experience. His dad makes yearly visits for spring training in March. His sisters swoop down for beach trips, and friends, including yours truly, stop by at irregular intervals.
His mom was invigorated by the beach, even when disease was wrecking her body. Jay called me almost every day during her last visit to report how good she was doing, and how happy he was to see her happy, as the waves washed in and out.
This will be Jay Bell’s first Christmas since his mother died. At 43, he’s lucky to have had her for as long as he did, but other men have been far luckier.
Among his many blessings in 2011 was to be with her when she died. He recognizes that as the privilege it was.
His dad flew down about two weeks ago, and the pair of them shared a sunset at Siesta Key, one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Jay got to make fun of his dad, who was learning to navigate a new smartphone.
“Some people should stick with flip phones,” Jay said. “He was fine with that.”
One of his sisters will fly from the frozen north in a few weeks, and they’ll travel to Key West for yet more rest and relaxation at the water’s edge.
Jay will spend part of Christmas Day in paradise alone, but he’s got an old friend coming to town. He’s looking forward to the reunion.
I’m glad he’ll have someone to hang out with that day. I’ll also give him a call and let him describe the natural wonder of a Florida Christmas. I’ll listen and be content.

M. Scott Morris is a Daily Journal feature writer. Contact him at (662) 678-1589 or scott.morris@journalinc.com.