I moved here in June of 2014 soon after the passing of my father. My life was in a tailspin juggling my father’s illness, my second divorce, protecting my children from the effects of the divorce, losing my job, and of course, struggling with my own health issues. There are two main reasons that I chose to move here, one of which I will discuss freely because deciding so was to hopefully remedy several of the issues that I was dealing with. Southern Florida is in the beginning stages of a major growth economically with several major companies looking to place either home offices or satellite locations here. It seemed like it was one of the best places to afford me a chance to replace my income and benefits that were necessary for several reasons.
But I have learned that the area of Naples and surrounding areas have two major distinctions of notoriety. One is quite obvious, the other, not so much.
The first distinction, is a time period called “season.” In the north, we had four seasons – Summer, Autumn, Winter, and Spring. In southern Florida, we have “snowbird” season.
Just as geese can be seen flying south for the winter, human “snow birds” also fly south for the winter. Snowbirds can arrive as early as October, and stay usually until just after Easter or April. About the time that the weather warms up back north, so the birds fly back north. I first heard of this phenomenon with my Uncle Eddie and Aunt Mary who made this annual trek as long as I had known them.
Up north, the signs are simple that it is time for the “birds” to migrate south. But for those of us who live here, and this being my first exposure to “season”, we get only one warning, and by then, it is too late.
As soon as the car carriers begin to arrive, we know that season has begun. The parade of license plates look more like an automobile “miss America” pageant with nearly every state represented. Of course, the influx of cars results in a lot more traffic, not just in number of vehicles, but also incidents.
While the above photos are meant to be humorous, in reality, it is far from it. While the driving habits of the elderly are probably acceptable back home, when you insert them into traffic more then three times they are used to, combined with poor driving courtesies such as using turn signals, proper breaking distances, and not making a turn from the furthest lane over from the intersection, the areas are subject to a minimum of at least one accident a day. This is serious. The fact that driving on the 405 in California or the Schuylkill Expressway in Philadelphia is safer than driving down here during season says a lot.
There are other inconveniences also from longer lines at gas stations, hour long waits for dinner reservations, and forget about going to enjoy anything with the word “free” attached to it. And so, we locals sit back and wait for the sign, the sign that it is time for the “snowbirds” to migrate back to their homes…
Another population type in the Naples are the singles, and by that divorced or widowed. Unlike the majority of “snowbirds” who simply are in Naples for their own enjoyment, the divorced and widowed of Naples provide a comfort to new arrivals of the same class. I have often heard this area described as an “island of misfit toys,” much like in the Christmas classic “Rudolph The Rednosed Reindeer.”
This class of citizen has a personal empathy that provides understanding and support to those who may struggle with their possible new situation.
I came here alone, with no family or friends, only knowing a handful of people that I had met in prior visits. There may be opinions about people who have been divorced as being “broken” or “flawed” like the holiday special toys and it is quite the contrary. And just as the misfit toys support each other, friends down here do the same thing. I have met a lot of divorced people, and have also met many who have been widowed. And while I am one of the new people down here, I have been made to feel welcome here, and am offered a lot of emotional support to deal with the various emotional issues that I face every day. They all have been through it. Some have gone through more, some have not. Some have issues still continuing. Several have long distance relationships with their children just as I do. The thing is that everyone understands what we all are going through, and there is no judgment.
With those that I have met down here, I know that in time, things will get better. Most have met my daughters and look forward to their return during the summer again. This is a good time for my children to visit me because the population is much less without the snowbirds.
But this is my home now, for better or worse. For me, definitely better.