First – – let me define “Snowbird”:

snow·bird (snobûrd)


1. Any of several birds, such as the junco and the snow bunting, common in snowy regions.

2. Slang One who moves from a cold to a warm place in the winter.

Clearly I am not a junco or snow bunting, so – it’s got to be the second, “slang” definition of which I speak now.  And – yes – this is exactly what my husband and I do each and every winter – move from a colder to warmer climate.

It’s probably time that I write in the “about” section of this blog to give readers a bit more basic details about who I am.  That is – if I have any random readers…  But – one thing which is very integral to my life is this “snowbird lifestyle” which my husband and I began once he retired in October of 2001  His parents also did this, so we have come by this way of life quite honestly.

My husband and I have lived on eastern Long Island from the time we were married in 1971 – and raised our son there since his birth in 1979.  During that time, his parents were “backing and forthing” to and from Hilton Head Island and Long Island.  In 1996 Ray’s parents gave us their house on Hilton Head when it was time for them to move into an assisted living situation.  We used the house for a short time each winter when Ray had vacation – mostly during the Christmas season so we could be with his parents during the holidays.  But – for the most part, we just kept the place up until it was our turn to be able to use it in earnest once Ray retired.

I remember our first trip south in December of 2001 about 2 months after Ray’s official retirement.  It was almost surreal packing up the car with everything we’d need for 6 months and driving down to Hilton Head – caravan style.  We both drove our own cars – each of us loaded down with luggage almost as high as it would go.  At that time, we had two black cats, Phantom and Shadow (Shadow is still with us today), and we each had a cat (tucked safely in a pet carrier) in our cars.  Ray and I kept in touch with each other via walkie-talkies (or cell phones if we got out of range) so that we would know when to stop for meals, gas, or for the night.  Still do!

Since then, I’ve become more accustomed to the trip, and the packing process for each way.  Yet – it has not gotten any less stressful.  Most of our nervousness now has to do with Shadow – our remaining cat – who is getting older, has failing kidney issues, pees more often, and the trip IS difficult on her.  I don’t also think there has been ONE trip south – or north – where I have not forgotten something vital, which either forced my son to mail the item(s), or I had to purchase a replacement quickly.

However, this is only about the logistics of the trip.  Most of the adjustment has more to do with getting acclimated to both areas after being gone from them for an extended period of time.

Each house is different.  I am in love with the Hilton Head house, and marvel for the entire time I’m there how wonderful it is to live in that environment.  I’ve learned how much I love tiled floors, particularly the Mexican Tile that my in-laws put in the house when they built it in 1986.  I love the spaciousness and open concept of the living / dining / kitchen, too – with the 5 sliding glass doors which face outward to the lagoon from different rooms.  When in the kitchen I can easily have conversational contact with those in the other living spaces, so I am not cut off from others.  I can see birds, alligators, flowers and other aquatic wildlife without ever having to leave the kitchen sink – or easy chair!  Maybe it’s too easy, I suppose….  The 1980’s built kitchen (seen probably as antiquated in comparison to a house built in 2010) is much more modern than my 1950’s kitchen in my Long Island house, too.  We built onto that house in 2006 – and that has only enhanced my love for the living space.  And – slowly over the years this house, which had been Ray’s parent’s, is now considered “home”.

However, my house on Long Island is the one that houses the “memories” of our early marriage and raising our son.  It’s “old” and in desperate need of updating, though, for a variety of reasons we probably won’t do too much of it.   The earlier house is 1950’s vintage, and the “newer” is from the 1976 addition.  Yet – I’d rather live through a hurricane in our north house, as it’s built much more soundly.

In each house, I have my favorite aspects.  When moving from one to the other, it requires some emotional adjustment.  For a few weeks, I always miss the home I just left, and spend that time reacquainting myself to the advantages of the one I am in.  Faster internet up north.  Better sound system down south.  Better cell reception up north.  Better mattress down south.  Cozier bedroom (with the sound of rain on the roof) up north.  Central a/c down south.  More spacious desk up north.  You get the idea….

Weather is another issue probably unique to me.  I admit – I miss snow, and worry sometimes that I’ll never see another snowflake ever.  Hilton Head sees basically none of the white stuff, and it is difficult to know that there is a good chance that if we continue this lifestyle I may not ever see a good old fashioned snowstorm.  Ray and I are not in agreement on this.  He could care less if he ever does.  It’s one compromise I’ve made for him.

But – the most challenging aspect of “Snowbirding” is the living of one’s life.  When you leave, you also leave the activities you’re doing in each place.  I have to say goodbye to each church choir when I leave, and then re-acclimate myself to the other choir upon arrival.  There is no Camera Club up north.  Photography is totally different in each place.

In short, it can sometimes be hard to sink my teeth into anything because it’s never long until I have to up and leave for another 6 months!  People can’t depend on me for the long term because I’m “always leaving”.  Yet – in some ways that also can be helpful if things are becoming stressful in whatever it is I’m doing.  It’s a great “escape” clause!  Plus – I have the opportunity to live two lives, so to speak.  I have variety – and that is the spice in my life!

It’s also difficult to say goodbye to friends, knowing I won’t see them for 6 months.  Then, upon arrival, I have to reconnect with my friends there.  It’s not always easy, as they continued with their lives when I wasn’t there.  It’s harder to remain close to friends – and harder to make new friends in such an environment.  And – I miss them terribly when I’m not there.  The push and pull of “hello” then “goodbye” can put a strain on things emotionally.  Yet – I have double the friends – and my life is enhanced by each of them.

I’ve learned to love each place for the different opportunities that are there for me.  Despite some of these “transitional” difficulties as I move from one place to the other, I cannot imagine any other lifestyle for me now.

However, I suspect that this Snowbird lifestyle is one reason why I have become even more attached to the internet and the social networking sites like Facebook, Live Journal, and now this journal.  It is the one constant that is in my life no matter where I am.  Life inside my computer travels with me no matter where I am, and I appreciate that.