MiraBay covers all the bases
By ELIZABETH BETTENDORF
Published January 12, 2007
Sharon Robinson's 2,500-square-foot townhouse in MiraBay pulses with color, art and stories.
The walls and furniture reflect the Caribbean's sunset colors, where she lived for a time; the art collection melds folk art with Haitian painting with photography; and a story unfolds in photos along the wall of her staircase.
At 56, Robinson, a retired nurse-midwife who taught at Howard, Yale, Columbia and Georgetown universities, is an accomplished author of children's books (her latest, Slam Dunk, is to be released by Scholastic in the fall).
She also is an educational consultant to the commissioner of Major League Baseball. And a firm believer that people should measure their lives by the effect they have on others' lives.
That's something she learned from her late father, baseball Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson.
"My dad taught me these values through life experience and what we did as a family," Robinson explained as she curled in a pomegranate red chair and ottoman with her exuberant lap dog, Brooklyn.
Robinson's childhood, spent at the family home in Stamford, Conn., remains very much a part of her soul. There, the family hosted numerous fundraisers for causes they believed in, including the Civil Rights movement. Jazz greats Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Sarah Vaughan and Joe Williams also came to the Robinson home.
So did the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
"The dining room table was our forum - there our parents would tell us what was going on in the world," said Robinson, who recalls how she and her two brothers were the first to integrate suburban Stamford's schools.
The black-and-white photos on the staircase landing tell the story of a loving extended family.
Family was something Robinson had in mind when she bought her townhouse in the waterfront community of MiraBay. Robinson, who travels frequently, wanted a home big enough for her family, including her 28-year-old son and her 84-year-old mother.
"I just wanted this to be a comfortable house for all of us," she said of the three-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath, two-story house she bought from an investor who never lived in it.
Drawn to the water
Robinson, who had been living for a decade in a beachfront home in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, found the MiraBay Web site while house-hunting online. Robinson had decided to leave St. Croix to cut down on travel time and had targeted Florida's west coast because she has friends here, loves the sunsets and likes the relatively uncongested lifestyle.
After selling her St. Croix property in August 2005, she was hoping to find a new home by the end of the year, possibly in Sarasota. But she was attracted to the waterfront, Key West-ish MiraBay because of its many resort-style amenities, strong sense of neighborhood and mix of ages and races.
An avid walker and swimmer, she also found the community very accommodating for sports.
Robinson has made a lot of friends in just one year and is able to get to the Sarasota and Bradenton beaches often because of MiraBay's location along U.S. 41 in southern Hillsborough.
Because her townhouse isn't directly on the water, she painted her walls beach colors - cool yellow, green and lavender - for a tropical feel. She always has had a knack for color and design, she said, and she carts her art collection with her whenever she moves so she can quickly create a sense of home.
A sense of history
The uncluttered space is filled with objects and art, including an eclectic collection of baseballs on a wooden platter (the signed balls are stored securely elsewhere) and a collection of photos and ephemera, including Jackie Robinson on the May 1950 cover of Life magazine.
In an era when great sports figures didn't earn the startling incomes common today, Jackie Robinson held off-season jobs. He owned a clothing store on 125th Street in Harlem, and later, when he retired from baseball, he worked for Chock full o'Nuts Coffee as vice president of personnel.
Her favorite story about her father is one of courage and fierce love: Every winter when Sharon, her brothers and friends wanted to ice skate on the lake behind the house, Jackie Robinson insisted on testing the ice, venturing out to the deepest part of the lake with a broom and shovel, shooing the children back to shore while he made sure the ice was safe.
The most amazing part, Sharon remembers, was that her father couldn't swim.
After turning in his Brooklyn Dodgers uniform, Robinson, who broke baseball's color barrier, essentially launched a second career as an activist.
"Not being on the road meant he had time to give motivational speeches, write newspaper columns, raise money for Civil Rights organizations, join protest marches, speak to youth groups, play golf and cut the lawn," Sharon Robinson writes in her book Promises to Keep: How Jackie Robinson Changed America. He also chaired the NAACP's Freedom Fund Drive and helped bring the first black-run bank to Harlem.
Sharon, who holds a master's degree in nursing and who is retired from two decades of teaching midwifery at the university level, shares her father's enthusiasm for bettering the world. As educational consultant to Major League Baseball's commissioner, she helped develop a program that teaches children about breaking barriers in sports and life and strategies for overcoming obstacles.
Robinson also has published five books: three for middle-school and crossover readers; the others for adults, including a romance novel.
Her writing schedule starts in the morning when she's the most creative and stops around 3 or 4 p.m. Despite a great home office, Robinson says she can't sit at home and write full time:
"I need to be around kids and people - talking with them."
Like father, like daughter.
[Last modified January 11, 2007, 09:12:31]
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