July 23, 2024
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July 23, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

As we wheel our carry-ons into the airport lounge in Ft. Lauderdale, my eyes are drawn to the T.V. over the bar. The words are snaking across the bottom of the screen ominously.

Winter Weather Advisory: Entire Northeast blanketed with early snow. Freezing temperatures expected through the week.

“Are we insane?” I ask my husband. Here we have this place in sunny Florida and we’re headed home to a tundra. It was true. During the last 10 days that we spent in Deerfield Beach, the weather had been glorious, clear and sunny, with temperatures hovering in the mid-80’s. The trip had had been a welcome break, our days quiet and relaxing. Most mornings we walked and shopped, or to be honest, I shopped while Len walked around outside the stores. Or we went to the beach and read as the ocean breezes cooled us off. Thinking we were already too old for camp, both of us had chosen to avoid the popular clubhouse activities like line dancing or water aerobics to name just a few, and to venture instead outside of the development’s gates for recreation and frequent restaurant stops.

Also, since we were only visiting for a short time, it did not really pay for us to sign up for a lecture series or any of the courses given locally. Instead, mornings we wandered and afternoons we spent sitting in a circle of friends around the pool. While there, the majority of the women worked busily on needlepoint projects while they chatted, while the men held open newspapers on their laps as they talked. At the nearby pool, only a few hardy souls stood in the very warm water, occasionally flexing a knee here or an arm there, but barely causing a ripple. Obviously, serious laps were for another time and place and splashing was for the children who would soon enough visit their grandparents during winter vacation and cause same grandparents to steer clear of the area for the week.

Oddly enough, if someone asked me what day it was during our stay, unless it was Shabbos, I had to really think hard to answer correctly. In Florida, I find that the days sort of run into each other with a sameness that is sometimes disconcerting. As far as the nights were concerned, after dinner we visited two local movie theaters that proved to be practically empty during the week. Where was everyone? Did they go to earlier shows? Were they at a party we weren’t invited to? We even bought tickets to a performance at the clubhouse which featured a comedian and a singer who I vaguely remembered from our old Catskill days and had long presumed dead. Interestingly, they were still pretty much alive.

Over the years, when we returned to the same bungalow colony each summer, it always delighted me to see how much the children of our friends and neighbors had grown and matured after those many months. In those days, I was also quite content to sit around and gossip all day and play mah jongg or read each night as a welcome respite for my very busy schedule at work. This was my vacation time, after all.

Nowadays, though, it is sobering to see acquaintances we haven’t seen for a while, growing ill or infirm. Many are returning this year to their apartments, all alone. The very sight of a child in our development is a rarity. While I appreciate my good fortune and understand that the warmth of Florida and the camaraderie of its residents are therapeutic for so many people, I begin to wonder if this is the right place and the right life for me right now.

Yes, it is freezing when we land in Newark, but it also feels refreshing to have a change of season. My house suddenly seems huge in contrast to our small apartment, and it has its nooks and crannies where I can have some privacy when I want to disappear for a while to do my own thing. Some of my children and grandchildren live nearby and I am thrilled to be able to see them whenever I want to. My very own car sits in the driveway and when Len goes off to work in his, I can go to my book club, Shakespeare class, writing group or shiur. On Tuesdays, I hop a bus to New York, meet a good friend and take a continuing education course that we are both quite fond of.

I value the opportunity to get away every once in a while to my apartment in Florida, where my summer clothes hang in the closet and my makeup is in the drawer. I understand how lucky my husband and I are to be able to make these occasional trips and visit with good friends. Yet, for now, I am really content to be in my real home once again. Of course, by the time you read this article, there is always the possibility that I have changed my mind and I am once more boarding a plane heading south. After all, there’s no telling what effect another snowstorm or two might have on our plans.

Estelle Glass, a Teaneck resident, is a retired educator who is now happily writing her own essays.

By Estelle Glass

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