In a temporal sense, living in Florida as a Snowbird is a lot like experiencing a second childhood. Not only do we once again have more time to play, but our very concept of time itself has strayed from the calendar year. In reality, our days do not flow from January to December. As children, our lives were governed by “The School Year,” which ran from September to June. As retirees, we have simply replaced the “The School Year,” with something called “The Season,” which has more individual variety, but lasts approximately from November through April.
So, as the 2015-2016 “Season” is winding itself down, I find myself reflecting on the past months, and have come up with the following observations.
From the middle of March until about the third week of April, we will have entertained four different sets of house guests, with lengths of stay varying from 3 days to more than a week. So this year, when we sit down for the first night of Passover, and someone recites the prelude to the traditional four questions Why is this night different from all other nights? My personal answer will be because my guest room is empty!
Don’t get me wrong. The guests are family, and everyone is more than welcome. But winter weather in south Florida can be a bit fickle, and no one comes here for chilly, rainy days. The few guests that did risk coming in January and February this year I’m sure will want to rethink future visits. This, of course, will add to the pile-up that occurs during the weeks following daylight savings time.
I try to be a gracious hostess. I request grocery lists in advance, so I can prepare for dietary requirements and favorite breakfast foods. I readjust my regular schedule so I may act as tour guide, golf partner, activities director, meal planner, and general companion. I don’t mind the extras, which include laundry and trips to the grocery store. The time together is that special.
But love them all as I do, there remains just a couple of irksome inconveniences that I have thus far failed to overcome, and probably never will. So, for the sake of future harmony, I feel I must discuss them.
If you would like me to be pleasant for the rest of the day, do not attempt to talk to me first thing in the morning. Even the dog knows better. And finally, after over 40 years of togetherness, so does my husband. Unfortunately, I’m not one of those people who wake up all chirpy, so please don’t confront me with a cheery greeting. A grunt will suffice. I prefer to move about the kitchen in grumpy silence for at least 30 minutes. No guarantees, but you can try me again half-way through my second mug of coffee.
And I know guests like to be useful, and are just brimming with inquiries about how they can help. And in my role as gracious hostess, I do try to be accommodating and accept their contributions. So what if I can’t find anything in the refrigerator because nothing was returned to its proper place (proper as designated by me, of course)? Or the recyclables end up in the wrong pail? I can cope. But please, please – don’t offer to load the dishwasher. This is where my flexibility comes to a screeching halt. You simply won’t do it properly. I have worked long and hard to overcome my difficulties with spatial relations to create a system that maximizes capacity for a crowd larger than just the two of us. So don’t try to sneak that one by me. I’ll catch it, and just redo the whole thing, even if the dishes are already clean. I’m a stickler for proper stacking.
House guests segue into the topic of dinner parties for the following reason. With all the extra people in our lives, we have made and enjoyed more dinners at home. Which led me to wonder What ever happened to dinner parties? People, including moi, simply do not invite friends to come to dinner nearly as much as we used to.
I used to enjoy entertaining at home. Spontaneous dinner parties were always the best. Fortunately, I was never a perfectionist when it came to entertaining. Sort of the anti-Martha Stewart. So my rather slap-dash approach fit perfectly with even last minute plans.
We have had dinner guests at our home a few times during “The Season.” And it has always been fun. My first order of business, before deciding what to serve, is to determine the true nature of our relationship. Can the depth of our friendship overcome the use of paper dinner napkins, which can be tossed, as opposed to linen, which obviously require laundering. And can I get away with recycling the wedges of cheese left over from our last guests, if I square off the edges just right? So if I invite you to dinner, whether pre-planned or last-minute, and the table is set with paper napkins, the good kind, of course, take this as a sign that you mean a great deal to me and that I depend on your unconditional love.
While I adore the above phrase, I must confess that it did not originate with me. A former colleague of mine coined it to describe the habit of eating at and discussing at length the newest, trendiest, and frequently very expensive latest restaurants. And nowhere has recreational eating been more established as a lifestyle than during “The Season” in South Florida, where eating at home may be taken as a sign that one is not popular.
I find this to be particularly true as “The Season” draws to a close, and friends once again disperse to different parts of the northern hemisphere, likely not to be seen again for as long as six months, or the start of the next “Season.” There is an urgency to bid each other farewell over dinner in yet another noisy restaurant, where conversation has become a challenge. And so our weekly planner becomes filled with consecutive nightly dinner plans.
Do I dare suggest that season’s end might be better served by one big pot luck dinner at someone’s home? My house is available, if you can tolerate paper napkins.