I work for a french woman who owns a long standing, high-end Key West boutique. Sabine is effortlessly chic, charming, successful, a diva for certain–but a diva with arms so wide she could take half of Key West to her bosom. I have watched her outfit the Key West wealthy, the tourist, the passerby who is drawn into her shop by the tantalizing goods perfectly displayed in the wide window. Her accent is alluring, cementing her charm while allowing her unrecognized sarcasm should the occasional customer question her taste or her wares. I am devoted to Sabine. She has taken me under her wing and schooled me in fashion and retailing, and more importantly, she has schooled me in the challenges a single woman (well past her prime) must face in hurricane vulnerable Key West. She was on vacation in France when Irma met the Keys and her beach house on the Atlantic took a terrible hit, but like the grand dame herself, her home stood strong and lives to meet the challenges of another season.
Sabine called me after the storm to check on both my safety and anxiety. We talked for some time and not particularly about the hurricane devastation, but rather about the uncertainty before the storm, the constant fretting, the do-I-stay or do-I-go decision that only those who face impending danger can understand. Second to family and pets, the love of one’s home is paramount. Home is security, a sanctuary, a respite from a complicated and uncertain world, and Sabine understands that if you are alone, it is all that is dear to you. “How do you walk away from that?” she asked. “How do you leave your baby behind and hope for the best?”
“It is the price we pay to live in paradise,” she told me. “It is island life. It is the housing compromise we have made, our choice, our hardship. It will be a difficult year, but it is what makes us resilient, strong, different. And different is good, my dear, for who wants to be like everybody else,” she asked with her french-filled, fancy laugh.
Thank you, Sabine. Thank you for your mentoring, your hand holding, your grace, and your unflappable island sensibilities. I do live in paradise, made so not only by lofty palms but by compassionate people, a one human family. I live in a paradise currently in the processes of resurrection and renewal. Key West strong.