• The reluctant snowbird
    September 26,2013
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    There was a throwaway joke on the sitcom “Friends” that has somehow stayed with me. The character Joey tells his roommate that a friend wants to move to Vermont.

    “Why?” the roommate asks.

    “He wants to leave the country,” the character replies.

    A big laugh follows, but I still don’t get it. Maybe that’s because I like living in Vermont (except the endless winters). It’s the bluest state. It’s also controversially the whitest state. But hey, it’s where authors and Nobel Prize winners choose to live. Amidst cows.

    And then there’s always the ice and snow.

    “How could you ever leave Vermont? It’s so beautiful,” a customer asked when I was working as a waitress to put myself through grad school in New York City. I didn’t know that later I would be asking myself this question and then still later packing. My values began to change and family seemed to mean something more.

    As a bonus, as a returning Vermonter, I get to take for granted the foliage that others must pay (bus fares, on-the-road meals and expensive phone-cameras) to record. Around Rutland City lie country roads soon awash in brilliant color. All we have to do is drive around or kick through the piles on a country walk. Fall couldn’t be more convenient for locals.

    And a lot of people known as “snowbirds” are really just plain cheating. They take off when the snow flies and return in spring when the trees are again gorgeous with the newest season’s blooms. One year a while back when a friend moved to South Carolina, I had to learn the secret behind the snowbirds’ retreat and what all the hoopla was about. So I went south for two weeks.

    There, in dismay, I saw on the beaches translucent jellyfish the size of basketballs on steroids. Oh, the horror of the tourists discovering these littering the beach about three feet apart. Small sharks (but still, I know, sharks!) were reeled in off a pier and thrown back with No Chumming (happy that this bloody practice was at least banned) signs everywhere. No wonder there was hardly anyone in the water.

    At times things seemed stuck in a time warp — and not just the lay of the land. Young men in Confederate hats felt inspired to give a rebel yell — in the convenience store. Everything seemed to be made of crab (very well, too) and boiled peanuts (unfortunately as bad they sound). I’m afraid we couldn’t wait to get home for a New England breakfast without Southern staples such as grits and margarine-laden Wonder Bread. There’s something to pancakes, syrup and bacon or eggs and crisp wheat toast with real butter. Everything was breezy and fresh, not wet and soggy from intermittent flash rains. I was happy to be here. It was home. I’m not much of a snowbird apparently.

    I’ll just get out one of my three shovels. Be prepared, as they say. The snowbirds can escape each year. I am enjoying life out of the country. Abroad at home.

    I mean happily leaf-peeping in Vermont.

    Cindy Battles is a Rutland resident.
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