We have moved.
Somehow, someway, the universe took notice of the small misfit family shivering away in Massachusetts, and gave wings to our intentions and efforts to change our geography. Befuddled by shoveling and ice salt and leaking winter roofs, our family trudged through the gray days that, for us, stopped being cozy and grew to be oppressive.
No doubt I will miss a springtime yard exploding with dandelions like a thousand boastful stars in a green night sky, flowerbeds jungle-ing with raucous wildflowers, and jubilant children scaling trees and rocks in a flurry of wildly imagined battles and expeditions.
I will miss autumn, ablaze with fiery parades of trees in their grand finale, throwing off shining bulbous acorns like Mardi Gras beads, the kings and queens of the season. I will miss the feeling of the coming hibernation as a welcome adventure; imagining my family as a little troupe of squirrels burrowed deep in the ground on a bed of fat nuts, all twisted into ourselves, someone’s head resting on someone else’s bottom, all snoring peacefully and dreaming of sugar plum fairies.
But most of all, I will miss the family who became my family. A friendship that became a sisterhood, two children who became like my own, as mine became hers. A friend who loved me (and still loves me) completely, and our children sharing the same bond. She is a sculptor of simple beauties, a transformative magician of the mundane into the fanciful; even uncovering the elegance of a Victorian cockroach. I should have known a great friendship was to grow when I realized we shared the same name. So many new colors awoke within me when I handed her a paintbrush. Friendship also goes through seasons, and perhaps we have left one season for another, but I know, dear friend, that the sun will always shine warmly down upon us.
My family has left these things behind us, at least geographically, and thrown ourselves into the world of snowbirds. We are in Florida. My heart sings for palm trees and snorkels and red salty skin; the larger-than-life performances of Hibiscus bushes and Birds of Paradise and the occasional cameo of Plumeria. These plants remind me of hot-tempered, sultry, voluptuous women, and I sometimes wonder if they won’t reach out and smack you with a leafy hand should you pass them by without acknowledging their bursting, sensual beauties.
We currently reside in a hotel, one of those extended stay joints with a mini kitchen and free wine and beer Monday through Thursday. Not a bad deal for a girl shoveling two feet of snow from her driveway in subarctic temperatures with two grumpy, rather unhelpful children just a week ago. Now we sit, depressurizing, at the pool, which is situated right off a major highway. I find this amusing. Paradise amidst the concrete (or should I say asphalt) jungle.
This hotel is patronized almost entirely by snowbirds. I absolutely adore them.
Some are fat, some are skinny. Some of the women wear old lady bathing suits and some of them wear classy, old lady bathing suits and some of them just go for it and wear bikinis. Some are grumpy and fuss at each other and some are ancient party animals and flirt with each other. My favorite are those women opting for bikinis, with dark, leathery, freckled skin and wrinkled bellies and sagging breasts and big smiles and a constant supply of cheap cigarettes. They smell of smoke and cocktails and artificial coconut, and their laughter is deep and raspy and often.
I think they have conquered the world.
I imagine myself, one day, in such blessed victory, to finally master the abolition of worry; to no longer give much regard for youthful skin and healthy lungs, but to know I’m nearing the end of a life well lived, a life longer than most, and to go out in a blaze of mirth and cheap drinks and cigarette smoke. They are, these women, the Hibiscus and Birds of Paradise and Plumeria come to human life; with pungent fragrance and bright colors and tough skin.
God, let me live to be a snowbird. Perhaps by then, my sister with the same name can pull up a lounge chair and give me a light. Such as she always so graciously provides.