Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Deleted Scenes 2: Becoming a Floridian

There are two ways to become a Floridian. Being born here is the less common method. The other Floridian was born elsewhere, and carries a hatred of winter so intense that the other three seasons might as well not exist. Enjoy summer while it lasts, this Floridian thinks. Foliage turning is only a sign that winter is eminent. Sloshing through the spring thaw, this Floridian promises herself she’s seen her last snowflake. Sooner or later, this Floridian tires of the few short weeks she’s allowed to swim and leave her sweater at home (she’s always cold) and moves to where she should have been born in the first place. Once here, something inside her cries in relief.

Snow angels and forts and sledding may have been years behind me, but I loved winter. Sun gleaming off crusted ice, or a powdery snow sugaring the landscape. Even slogging through the wet ash of exhaust-stained slush meant I got to wear my cool boots and knee-length leather jacket. A scarf crusty from a running nose came with coffee or hot chocolate once I got inside. Besides Halloween (even though it sometimes snowed in October), all the best holidays were in winter

Spring and fall both had their charms, but apart from barbecues I didn’t much care for summer. My skinny arms and pale legs made wearing shorts and t-shirts an embarrassment, and I really didn’t like showing my love handles (which I’ve had since junior high, thanks) for swimming. Yet I moved here, carrying my Northeastern stoicism like a chip on my shoulder.

I’m sure some of my resistance to becoming a Floridian was simple homesickness, but some of us need convincing about how great it is down here.

This innate love of Florida can’t be genetic. I have two cousins living in the panhandle, in a gorgeous, rapidly-expanding Gulf town called Destin. Growing up in a tight, Mohawk Indian family, these cousins felt more like siblings. Shawn, the oldest, loved the Miami Dolphins his whole life. In a family of Pittsburgh Steelers, Buffalo Bills, and New York Giants fans, Shawn looked twenty-five-hundred miles away for his team. He moved down shortly after he graduated college. Shane, the second-oldest cousin, visited Shawn for what was supposed to be a brief vacation after college, then never went home.

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