Paradise Reconsidered

The Cottage of the South
The Cottage of the South

We’ve had this place for eleven years now. A two-story, three bedroom condo tucked away in a quiet town called Jupiter on the Atlantic coast of Florida. We bought it in 2004, the year of the big hurricanes, Charlie, Francis, Ivan and Jeanne. I remember my first trip here and seeing the detritus that still lay about. Fences down. Tree boughs piled in bunches. Roofs missing big sheaves of shingles. Our daughters were 6 and 8, and we could steal away from school for weeks on end, months even. We home-schooled and sent the work back to their teachers in Ontario. We found a gymnastics club where my older daughter could train and compete. It’s funny to look back on it now: all that frantic treading of water just to keep them in the same spot they were back home.

Then high school came and things changed. We couldn’t get away for as long, at least I couldn’t. Their friends and activities kept me mostly pinned in Ontario. I got used to shovelling and bundling up, driving through snowstorms to cheerleading and riding lessons. It was fine. It was where I needed to be.

Now both daughters are at university. During their first school term, I stayed in Ontario rather than running south. I visited them at regular intervals and I liked that; if they needed me, I could – and did – get in the car and make the two hour drive to their university homes. And we stayed in touch by text, SnapChat, FaceBook and Skype. As it turns out, no matter where I am, my daughters are always within my maternal reach.

After their first term exams, we flew to our home in Florida for Christmas as has long been our tradition. When the time came to fly back to Ontario after a twelve-day stay, I was reluctant to go. I flinched just thinking about the cold and the snow. But I followed them home. I always do. And I was happy to spend time with them and to get to know the new and old friends that came to visit. But, as soon as the girls returned to school to start their second term, I booked a flight and beat a hot path back to our southern home. Why wouldn’t I?

So I am back in the sun. Under palm trees and blue sky. Crossing paths with ibises and quick-footed lizards on my morning walks. I can roll out of bed in the morning without cringing at the chill and ingest my daily requirement of Vitamin D straight from its most natural source, face turned up, eyes closed. I can swim at seven in the morning without a single goose-bump.

I thought I wouldn’t come. I thought the ties that bound me to home were too much to leave behind – children, parents, siblings, yoga and meditation friends –  never mind that my husband spends virtually the entire winter here. We’ll see. We’ll see if I can weave a web of support like the one I have at home. Will I end up treading water all over again? Maybe.

For now though, I have to say: it is easier. Easier in the warmth, even on an overcast day like today, I can sit outside with my shoes off in a bathing suit and sunglasses. I can step outside to walk, to read, to swim, to breathe and feel the warmth.

I thought I wouldn’t come. So glad I changed my mind. For today at least.

Poolside Quiet, Jupiter FL
Poolside Quiet, Jupiter FL


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