I recently purchased plane tickets for our annual winter pilgrimage to Florida, and I have to admit that once again, I felt a surprising degree of guilt to know that I'll be abandoning my hometown during the harshest months of the season. I live in a part of the country that occasionally gets socked pretty hard by the elements in January and February, and I used to pride myself in sticking around and battling the snow and wind for the duration of the rough weather. it wasn't until about a decade ago that my wife and I decided that it just wasn't too fun to be frostbitten every year, and so we hightailed it South for a little sun and surf. Just to pick our spirits up. And that first year, when we realized that things like golf and tennis and outdoor breakfasts could still exist in the darkest months, we knew that this was going to become an annual thing.
This was a significant change for me. For the longest time I viewed the "snowbirds" with mild derision--I'm afraid I was one of those insufferable "wonder of the seasons!" guys, the type of guy who would rhapsodize about the Four Seasons and how delightful it was to live in a part of the country where you experience the glory of the changing weather patterns. I would greet the onset of winter in the same reverent way that I greeted all the seasons-- I thought it was a time for celebration, a time when you happily bundled up and drank hot chocolate and went on thrilling sledding expeditions. Why would anyone want to leave, I would loftily think, just because of a little winter inconvenience?
Well . . .
Maybe it was because my old bones finally started to creek a bit more, or that my knee began acting up, or that my wife's hip started to really give her some trouble, but my cheerful, romantic Winter Mania slowly began to wane. And honestly, what really pushed it over the edge wasn't the snow and cold temps as much as the lack of daylight. I truly began to miss the sun; sometimes it seemed that I could go through all of November or February without once seeing anything but industrial, gray skies. And well, I guess I should just admit that after 5 or 6 times, shoveling snow is no longer the exhilarating winter workout that it was at the beginning of the season. It becomes sort of a grim chore. (And no, I still can't bring myself to buy a snowblower.)
In my perfect world, my hometown would receive one major snowfall a year--two days before Christmas, a nice blanket of 6-8 inches of white powder would be just fine on the ground, so everybody could have that picture-postcard holiday setting. Sleigh rides and hot chocolate and fa-la-la and all that. Then, after New Year, the snow would all magically melt and we'd have unseasonably warm temps--say in the 50s--throughout January. Then a gradual warming period, through the late winter months, as the sunlight begins to grab a greater hold on each day. Now that's a winter I could really get behind!
But of course, it's not a perfect world, and if my Farmer's Almanac is correct, 2016-2017 might be one of the toughest winters in a while. (So far so good, but it looks like something rough might be brewing pretty soon.) I'll still look forward to the Holidays, of course, and some prolonged time with my family, but after that, I guess I'll have my eyes firmly fixed on the Friendly Skies. I've made some friends from all over the country in our winter place, and it's always nice to reconnect with those new (suntanned!) faces. Many of our friends there are cold-weather refugees as well, and I guess we probably spend the first week of our vacations just congratulating ourselves for escaping the icebox North. I still feel a little guilty about all this, like I'm a traitor to my hometown, but I guess it's a bit easier to deal with guilt when you can go barefoot all day long and wear short sleeves and feel the sunshine on your face.
I feel bad...but not THAT bad.
Until next time,