BY BARBARA BAPTISTE
“Living in Florida is like living in Paradise.” These were the words I had heard from Floridian friends when I first began to consider relocating from the Northeast. Of course there were the obvious perks of never having to worry about shoveling snow or driving on icy roads. Cold weather (anything under 60 degrees) is something that I’ve always viewed as distasteful. A gross misconception on my part was in assuming that most people felt the same way about winter. I was amazed that some humans actually relished the winter months. There are definitely warm weather and cold weather people. Many of my friends cringed when I mentioned perpetual sunshine and warm temperatures. Because I fall into the first category, I traveled three times to Florida, and with the help of a GPS, visited different communities on the East Coast from Orlando to West Palm Beach. Finally, I bit the bullet, sold my house in New Jersey, packed up my life, and—with my then college-age son—made the move to a Paradise with which none of my friends or relatives were familiar—Port St. Lucie, Florida (but, that would change all too quickly).
As I drove from the West Palm Beach airport on I-95, the beautiful pink and blue sunset stole my heart. The picture perfect skies do remain as one of my most appreciated pleasures with living in Florida. The Northeast tends to be grey from November to March, and it had always felt depressing. Here, in the SunshineState, I thought I would never feel that way again. The landscape remains green, filled with colorful flowers. How bad can anything be when one is surrounded by this backdrop on a daily basis? For the most part, this line of thinking still holds true.
Here I was, all of a sudden—an independent woman, starting over. It was an adventure; one that I was very excited about living. However, the introduction to Florida was not as I had anticipated. The year my son Jason and I drove down to Florida was 2004—August 1st to be exact. Two weeks later Hurricane Charlie blew through without a great deal of drama on the TreasureCoast, but caused plenty of devastation in other parts of the state. Then came Hurricane Francis, and two weeks later Hurricane Jean. Self said, “Oh my God, Barbara, whatever have you done to yourself!” It was a stark revelation that there is no such place on this earth as “Paradise.” That honor belongs solely to the divine. We mere mortals have to take the good with the bad.
Still, I find much more good with living in Florida than in New Jersey. Yes, the summers are hot, but the months of July and August in the NY Metropolitan area are no walk in the park either. On the Treasure Coast it is, at least, clean hot air we breathe, not pollution. When the heat is over and done, there are glorious months ahead; unlike up north where there are cold nights and dreary days for what always seemed to be forever.
All my friends thought I would miss the holiday season in New Jersey. Wrong. What they left out of the real picture was the “cold and flu season.” And, no, I personally do not have to freeze to feel like Christmas. The decorations all over Port St. Lucie are beautiful. I still get such a kick out of stringing outside lights and decorating while wearing a T-shirt and sandals. Amazing. The stores have the same piped-in Alvin and The Chipmunks. I do have to admit to a little nostalgia when I hear “I’ll be home for Christmas.” The feeling is short lived, especially when I walk in the parking lot and find my car without a hassle. This is so unlike New Jersey’s mall heaven where one would have to park across the highway and trek through sleet and snow. Not fun by any means. Northern living is not a Currier & Ives, Peace on Earth post card of white snow covered streets. In the cold light of day, the reality is frigid weather and treacherous roads covered with black ice, not an especially pretty sight!
Beginning soon in Florida, the temperatures at night will be cool, the days sunny and warm. The trees will not turn brown and become barren, flowers will still bloom. So, now I get it. This is the part everyone was talking about. It is like Paradise. Singing Deck the Halls around a Palm tree works just fine for me!