Yes, it’s that time of year again. So soon. You know it’s coming, still its arrival is a surprise. Always a surprise.
I’m talking about – of course – the departure of the “Snow Birds”. Those happy, bronzed, bright, energetic, ever fun loving seasonal companions from New England, the MidWest, the MidAtlantic, Deep South, Canada, or overseas. The folks we see at the Dog Park every afternoon, ride bikes with, join for concerts, classes, boat parades, myriad clubs, sit outside with on balmy evenings, share wine and Bam Bam shrimp. We volunteer together, paint and pot, boat and eat ice cream. In other words, our partners in living one heck of a good life down here in Southwest Florida. Some are here most of the year. Some we only get to keep for a few months. But they share one thing in common: they all leave for the summer. All too aware of this, I have been nursing a case of Separation Anxiety.
Around now, little by little, this welcome throng that brought such life to us in the Fall and Winter, pack up and drive or fly away. Off they go to visit friends we don’t know, to lives we don’t share, to families we’ve only heard stories about. They will hug grandchildren who will appear to have grown by leaps and bounds. They will talk about all the things they did in Florida. They will listen – in person now – to tales of icy winds and mountains of snow and how hard it is to imagine sitting outside, sipping wine, watching the Christmas tree lighting ceremony and how absurd it is to ‘complain’ about being chilly and needing a SWEATER.
By mid May, almost everyone will have gone. In the past, I would have been among them. This year, however, I’ll be staying at home in Punta Gorda a bit longer, still involved in projects and commitments. Although I love this, very soon I know will be missing my playmates, looking for Facebook postings of them and their lives back ‘up north’, happy they are there, sad they’re not here. Of course, I have plans for my own summer – back to the South Shore of Boston, the little cottage in the harbor, familiar faces, rocky beaches, much colder air than I have become to prefer. I’ll visit with people who have been part of my life for years, catching up on what has happened and how much has changed. Warmed by seeing friends I love. A little nostalgic for the lives we once shared.
I struggle with the transition, I suppose. The Birds’ migration, the staying behind.
To soothe my anxiety, I turn to the comfort of the “Flamingos”, the ones who don’t leave! The full-timers. Some are graduated SnowBirds, who decided at some point that going back and forth between two residences was annoying, or just too expensive, or for whom the gravitational pull of Southwest Florida overcame them and they firmly planted their roots. It is for these lucky few that Punta Gorda opens up in the summer. Reservations are not required for restaurants. High strung northerners no longer run them off the road. The aisles at Publix are finally navigable. It is for their eyes that the inland storm clouds dance with lightning. For them, the sultry evening breezes encourage a late night stroll in Laishley Park. It is the Flamingos who will sustain me, until I too leave them to their quiet space.
Yet, as sure as the breeze blows through the palms, soon the annual migration will begin again. The happy Buddha statue on Bal Harbor will bear his banner “Welcome Back, Birds”. The classes at The Yoga Sanctuary will double. You’ll need to bring your own chair to the Tiki Bar. And I, with a big fat smile on my face, will be driving down Marion Avenue, between all those beautiful Palm Trees, the muraled buildings, historic homes, the magnificent Peace River, and then up the driveway to home, where I will await the arrival of my Charlotte Symphony season tickets and all my friends once again.