The Last Year
October 8, 2004
I just returned from the yard with something which inspires regret, urgency, and a longing to move on. Autumn leaves, splashed with color, are objects for collection now, as I realized that I may never live in their presence again. This will be the last autumn in the northeast, as we prepare to move from Long Island to Florida early next summer.
Since committing to buying a permanent residence in the southeast in July, I have been reminding myself of a litany of “lasts”: the last daylilies, the last too-short summer season, the last fall semester, the last Christmas. We have owned a vacation home in West Palm Beach for several years now, and have spent time there whenever we could, so we are no strangers to a tropical climate. And I’ve heard all the arguments: it’s too hot, it’s too humid, it’s too laid back, etc. We’ve been in Florida during every season, probably in every month, so we know what’s in store. Within a few hours of landing, however, I am transported out of my bitchy, on edge New York persona and into the balmy native gestalt of Florida. I want more of this.
We are fleeing the harsh northeast winters, which have been particularly brutal the last few years. Lest we think we are escaping to paradise, however, we have the past hurricane season to remind us otherwise. In addition to the weather, I am also longing to make a new start. A professional dead end, struggling with a first business, and a dearth of personal connections has coincided with *mental pause* and produced a perfect storm of a mid life crisis for me. I find myself at a low point in terms of my outlook and the ability to enjoy the simple pleasures of everyday life. I know moving, as if running away from problems, is not the solution. But I do believe I have learned some lessons and am eager for a chance to apply them in a new setting, with new opportunities.
I mentioned regret in the first paragraph because I feel that this year is slipping away, and I should preserve, as best I can, the remnants of 21 years in our present home, and 51 years living on Long Island. I feel that I should be taking countless photographs to remind me of what I leave behind. And I’ve been after myself to start writing *this* since July, which I’ve started in my head countless times.
We just put the vegetable garden to bed last week, which is a ritual in preparation for the winter. And I realized while doing it what a disappointment it was. The tomatoes, one of the main reasons I do this, seemed to have no taste. The weather was strange; and although we did manage to harvest some crops, for the most part, my heart just wasn’t in it, and hasn’t been for the past several years. So I refrained from photographing what became a tangled mass of good intentions gone to seed.
I have major trepidations leaving my parents and in-laws here, who all have their various health issues, as is typical of people in their late seventies and early eighties. With their exception, and our two brothers, we now have more family in Florida than in New York. There has been a continual exodus toward the south and we have been flirting with this move for years.
Aside from the emotional upheaval of moving, I can’t fathom the physical part right now, but I know it won’t be pretty. My husband, however, is gleefully planning to station a dumpster on the driveway so he can begin disposing of all the “crap” we shouldn’t be taking with us. You can see who is the “disposer”, and who is the “retainer” in this relationship.
This move comes at a pivotal juncture in the lives of our two kids, aged 14 and 18. Surprisingly, the 14 year old gave the green light for this move, after resisting for some time. She decided that she wants to move to Florida, and is buoyed by seeing her brand spanking new high school, (which we understand to be state of the art) and the prospect of getting her learner’s permit at age 15. Also, our bribe of her own bathroom and a walk in closet didn't hurt either!
My son, on the other hand, feels rather disenfranchised here, as he claims he will be living at college, so he won’t be residing with us. Or so he thinks. I compare myself at that age to him now and we are diametrically opposed. But, then again, for all intents and purposes, I grew up on another planet. I was naive and eager to go to college; I can’t remember a time in my life when I felt such heady anticipation and excitement. No one in my family had gone before, and they certainly didn’t expect me to do so. My family was solidly working class, and viewed education solely as a means to a better paying job. Since I was “just a girl”, and would someday marry and be supported by my husband, according to their 1950’s world view, I really had no need to be educated. As I said, this happened on another planet. It was something I railed against for years, but I like to think I was motivated by more than this for four years of college. I always worked part time when I went to school; I never considered the alternative because there was none. (There were times where I didn’t know where the money for next semester’s tuition was coming from.) Some people might look at this as a hardship, but for me it was the impetus, the motivation to make my way in the world.
All of which has little or no bearing on my son, who will have to find his own way. I realize his world has almost nothing in common with mine; the old rules just don’t apply here. He has now received acceptances to all five schools to which he’s applied, all state schools, three in New York, two in Florida. He has decided upon FIU in Miami. I guess the sub zero temps of upstate NY and the difficult logistics of visiting home finally won him over. He visited the school twice and was taken in by the excitement of its urban sensibilities and the veritable smorgasbord of academic choices. I envy him.
Addendum: May, 2005 My husband and I are now knee deep in packing and wrapping up our work commitments, ready to explore our new home state. We will visit shortly in May, and then move permanently in late June. This is the first time in about five years that I’ve spent the entire winter in NY, mostly for personal commitments. Yes, it was that bad, and yes, I deserve a break from this weather which is still dragging its feet about warming up. We’re ready! The new house will probably be ready sometime in August or September, just in time to experience this hurricane business we’ve heard so much about!
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