In my life, I have spent countless winter holidays in Florida, but the one that remains in my memory the most magical, the most full of hope and happiness and infinite possibilities, is the one shown in the pictures here: the winter of 1964. I don't know if it was my first trip to Miami with my family, but it was right after the Beatles had their first visit, on their first US tour. They had stayed at the Deauville, a pretty swish beachfront Miami hotel, and - no one remembers who the connection is now. A friend of my parents', or the best friends we were staying with (Joe was my dad's best friend, and his wife Chickie was my mom's - everyone met at college). And their girls - Anne, Jodie and Kari - were the coolest girls we knew. Anne especially, the older sister I wished I had (and who is still that way for me to this day: we'll be seeing them, if all goes well, this winter, in Miami).
Whoever this mystery man was, we were his guest that day at the Deauville. The Beatles had just stayed there, and our host was the first guest in the suite they'd occupied. He was telling the grown ups, as we listened with rapt attention, that girls were constantly showing up at their door, crying and touching the walls and the carpet.. that was the winter that the Beatles - their music, their very being - were transforming our lives. Our play involved imagining that we were their girlfriends: I always got Paul, who did look so much like my dad. I don't know that any music, at any time of my life, ever affected me as strongly as those songs, on that holiday. And has, all through my life.
This is that end of the year time when I look back, and look forward. One year ago today, my father's cousin Cliff Kimmel - the brother he wished he had, his lifelong closest male relative - was still alive. He died on New Year's Eve, in Florida. My dear friend Major Bobby Collins died here in London, one month later, on the 31st January, and in the spring, one of my father's closest friends, Paul Lazrove, died suddenly of complications from simple heart surgery. I remember what Major Bobby said a year earlier, when - in a strange twist of fate - he chose me to be there, as his next of kin. For a month, I visited him in hospital every day. They thought, the first night, that he might not make it through, and, drifting in and out of consciousness, he told me that if he died that night, it would be okay: he had had a rich and full life, and he had no regrets. And then, switching gears, he told me one of his many amusing stories.
All photos by my father, apart from the ones of the Beatles. And I guess my mom took the shot of my father, with their first dog, Junior, sometime before I was born. And it's funny - girls and their dads - because in this photo of my father, I can also see a lot of my husband. And on it goes.
I can picture them all, sitting round a pool - my dad either diving off the high board, or watching someone doing it. The sky is blue, the water is warm, the palm trees swaying in the tropical breeze: that is my idea of heaven. I bet John and George are there too, and pretty girls, and everyone is laughing.