Happy New Year everyone! We made it through the holidays relatively unscathed and are looking 2018 in the face. In sunny central Florida, January brings temporary cold snaps, increased traffic from seasonal residents, also called “Snow birds” and flaring tempers from the locals. We have a running joke down here in the fall.. You know it’s Autumn in Florida when the license plates start changing colors. While I despise the heavier traffic, I am thankful for the increased tourism dollars. I know small business owners in the area love this time of year, too.
While I do enjoy the mild winters that the tropical Florida offers, I find myself missing the change of seasons that comes every three months in other parts of the country. I was making my coffee yesterday morning and thinking about all the things I’ve been missing in the almost 14 years we’ve been in Florida. I’d like to share my thoughts on this with you.
Now, I’m not a huge fan of the white, fluffy stuff that plagues the northern US in the winter, unless of course I can stay home until the roads are clear and dry (like April?) I grew up in southern New England, so I have seen more than my share of slush, ice and dirty, old snow piled up on the side of the roads. But I find myself missing seeing the very first crocus peeping it’s purple head out from beneath a snowy garden, awakening from the winter slumber like a bear out of hibernation. That first sign of Spring… the crocus. Then as the snow melts away and gives way to green grass beneath it, the daffodils and tulips are soon to follow. And that sure, tell-tale sign that spring is just around the corner? A robin red breast, poking around in the garden looking for unsuspecting worms. We’d have contests to see who could find the first one. My mom almost always won, and the robin was her favorite sign of the impending seasonal change.
Springtime, a season of rebirth, regrowth and new life. Trees form buds and leaves sprout forth, covering the branches in tender new life. The dogwood tree on our front lawn blossomed every year with gorgeous pink and white flowers. My dad took meticulous care of it, pruning the branches with the ease and skill of a professional. And after we were married, my husband would buy me a rose bush, instead of a bouquet, for Valentine’s Day. We’d go plant it in the garden and watch it produce the most delicate, fabulously red, velvety roses, year after year. But my favorite flowers are lilies, star-gazers to be exact. I had never planted flowers from bulbs before I moved to Oregon, but I found myself with the prettiest, biggest blooms on those bushes even in the first year. And they kept just getting bigger and fuller.
I miss the smell of lilacs in the air, and seeing pussy willows growing in our backyard. We had a raspberry bush by our 15 foot pool in the back yard for years that produced the sweetest raspberries I’d ever eaten. Every Memorial Day, my dad would open our pool; no matter how cold it was, we’d swim in it until we were water-logged and tired. Memorial Day was also the day he broke out the grill and used it for the first time since the winter settled in the year before. There is nothing like a hot dog (especially if it’s a Hummel’s hot dog) or burger cooked on a grill, with home-made baked beans and Mom’s potato salad.
June brings the first day of Summer, and the warmer weather that northerners claim to live for. Trips to the beach, sand castles, dipping toes into the still chilly Long Island Sound, and eventually swimming to escape the summer temperatures. In Oregon, we’d head to the river and swim in mountain snow run-off, which was a welcome respite from the dry heat of summer. That water was easily 50 degrees, and about half an hour into the swim, you’d realize you were numb from the cold. Oddly, I don’t remember my teeth chattering though. Independence Day celebrations always included a trip to the beach for fireworks. The adults would bring a cooler of Sangria, while they made sure we had kid-friendly drinks in the other cooler. We had a favorite spot we’d sit every year, and it provided a perfect view of the fireworks. They weren’t computerized, or synchronized to music. They were just one shell at time, some with huge explosions that you could feel in the pit of your stomach. The grand finale was always spectacular.
My mom had a clothes line in our backyard, and in the summer, she never used the clothes dryer. In fact, for years we never had a working dryer. Every morning, she would schlep into the basement and drag up at least two loads of wet laundry to hang on that clothes line. When I was a kid, I’d go and sniff the sheets and towels as they dried, breathing in the clean, refreshing smell of summer. No fabric softener or detergent can replicate that smell, the scent of fresh linen on a clothes line. After we moved to Florida, Mom discovered that clothes don’t dry in the tropical humidity. Apartment living for the past 28 years has all but erased the memory of that smell. I miss it.
As summer fades into the cooler temperatures of fall, the leaves start to change and the trees shed their foliage for the season. Vibrant yellows, oranges and reds litter the landscape, bringing sightseers out to take in the scenery. The air just smells different when leaves are changing, falling and settling on lawns. Back in the day, ambitious teenagers were seen raking and bagging leaves, often for just $5 a house. It was the very beginning of the work season for them, as they anticipated snow shoveling in the next month or two. Every September, we would go apple picking and bring home bushels of Macintosh apples and gallons of cider. Mom made the best apple pies I’d ever had; even now, I’ve never found another one as good as hers. And when the numbers on the thermometer got into the lower 40s, on any given day you could smell a wood fire in a nearby fireplace. I miss walking and hearing the shuffle of leaves as you walk through them, taking in the smell of pine cones and even having to bundle up in a sweater. After being outside, we’d come in with naturally rosy cheeks and red noses. Hot cocoa tastes so much better when you’ve been outside in the chill.
I know I already said I am not a huge fan of snow, but there is something about the first snow of the year. I’m not talking about flurries that don’t stick around, I’m talking those big clumps of flakes that seem to plummet to the ground at terminal velocity. The heavy, wet snow that makes awesome snowballs and snowmen, and sticks together for sculptures (one year, my brothers made a 3/4 size race car in the snow in our back yard. It was awesome!) Watching the snow falling, curled up inside by a fireplace with a book or a beloved pet… this is my bliss. The first snow is always the best, as long as it doesn’t snow when I have to be somewhere. Around January, and 30 inches of snow later, I’m tired of it and I’m waiting for March to see the crocuses again.
For now, we’re planted here in Florida, and we will be for a season. But when that season comes to a close and we can make it back north, we won’t have to miss all the things we’ve been without for so long. Don’t get me wrong, Florida is truly a tropical paradise, but it’s not for everyone. I never realized how much I miss the change living north of the tropics brings, and I can’t wait to have that back. Someday.