This January will mark my 10th year in Destin.



In late December 2003 our real estate agent showed me around town, pointing out a number of possible houses. I knew Shane and I couldn’t make the decision about where to live without input from his daughter, Jennings, then 12. As Shane sat in a number of meetings getting to know many of you, Jennings and I toured potential homes, finally deciding on one that would be perfect.



Our house has a lovely orange tree out front, and we referred to the house as “The Orange Tree House.” When Shane came to look at it, he was looking for an “orange treehouse” out back and was utterly confused when he didn’t see one.



Jennings and I still laugh at this today, and I’m convinced it was the first time she and I really acted as a “team,” finding humor in a situation that we created and working together to convince Shane that the orange tree house was the right place for us. When Jennings graduated from the college of Charleston in May of 2012, she returned to Destin to spend a gap year with us before applying to graduate school.



Next week, she leaves us for physical therapy school at the University of Alabama Birmingham, and while I couldn’t be more proud and excited for her, I’m bracing my self for the hole she’ll leave in our family and our home.



My relationship with Jennings began with a bribe.



As she was about 9 or 10 at the time, I was convinced I could win her affection with sparkly nail polish, Teen People Magazine and Justin Timberlake posters. You’re not allowed to judge because it was the early 2000s and it worked. So while my motives for immersing myself in pre-teen pop culture were less than pure, I believe that they laid the foundation for continually evolving relationship. 



Although sparkly nail polish has given way to other colors, Entertainment Weekly and In Style have replaced Teen People, and our love for Justin Timberlake remains constant, she has brought so much more into my life.



As many parents of grown children know, having another adult living under your roof can pose some challenges, but not for me. The benefits of having a non-spousal adult, aside from having a built in babysitter, far outweigh any potential issues.



With Jennings around, I could be sure someone would stop at the store if I needed something while she was coming home from work. I always had an excuse to grab a latte or coffee on my way home to share, and I knew she’d be appreciative of anything I made for breakfast, lunch and dinner.



Jennings is a reminder to Alex and Harper to mind their manners, brush their teeth, and pick up their shoes. She helps with homework, bike riding, and shoe tying.  She convinced me that I could wear a subtly printed pant and that peplum doesn’t make me look “hippy.” With Jennings at home, we have a majority voting bloc for television watching, meaning the “big TV” sees as much “Glee,” “Scandal,” and “Downton Abbey” as it does SEC football, basketball, and “Magnum PI” reruns. 



I’ve been joking that on Dec. 31, just a mere 24 hours after she leaves Destin, I’m turning her room into an office, but I hope she knows it will always be her home. And I’ll be looking for some Justin Timberlake posters for decoration.



Follow Susan Moody on Twitter @susanjmoody and visit her blog, The Emerald Coast Insider, at www.emeraldcoasttreasurebox.com.