Don’t get me wrong, I’m incredibly grateful to be here. A friend recently texted me a photo of her backyard thermometer at Woodbine and Danforth showing a reading of -20 degrees. I sent her one back of a similar gauge on my present balcony indicating +80.
Mind you, the former was Celsius, and I am currently living in Fahrenheit, but you catch my drift. And not the kind of drift you’ve been dealing with for the past two months: snow whipping frigidly across newly-constructed bike lanes. No, my drifts are balmy ocean breezes blowing gently over fluttering palm leaves. For I am in glorious Hallandale Beach, Florida, where a “winter cold front” is considered three consecutive days of temperatures dipping below 70. (I kid you not – residents are gleefully running to their closets for an opportunity to finally wear the sweater they bought for just this occasion).
After a couple of interesting years in Toronto dealing with the death of a parent, divorce, relocation and a job loss, the opportunity to spend the winter in what some would consider “heaven” has slowly become a blessing. But you’ll notice this last sentence is peppered with qualifiers. That’s because I’m not one of those people who necessarily think this place is a gift from the gods. It’s taking time for the therapeutic benefits to kick in.
My relationship with Florida has been love/hate ever since my parents bought a condo down here some 30 years ago. In the years since, I’ve come to realize that my admiration of the place, or lack thereof, depends entirely on where I find myself in the circle of life.
As a university student and bachelor, I did not particularly enjoy my visits. There was nothing to do except wait for the early-bird dinners to start, and no one my age to do it with. Later, as a husband and father, appreciation grew. My wife and I could leave our two young children playing on the beach, supervised by grandparents, while we reclaimed some much needed alone time.
At this stage of my life, however, I am torn, feeling the push and pull of middle age. Part of me loves the opportunity to do nothing but sit by the ocean reading a good book; the other misses the activity, excitement and culture (but still not the weather!) back home in Toronto.
Then there’s the GOP elephant in the room that’s hard to wrangle. This place is just so…American. And this is coming from someone who is a dual citizen, having spent half my life across the border. Suffice it to say, I love Canada, and I can’t imagine living anywhere else.
I guess that’s really the bottom line. Though I have temporarily swapped one beach for another, and am grateful to be here, I’m looking forward to returning to my home turf.
I miss seeing the Christmas lights strung along the boardwalk, and the ice formations that make Lake Ontario look like the arctic. I miss Kew Gardens after a snowfall, and my breath turning into icicles as I dash across the street to grab a coffee. But that can wait. The Atlantic is calling and I have a book to finish.
Ken Gruber is a writer who lives in the Beach (most of the time). Our Town is a series featuring stories told by people in the neighbourhood. Do you have a story to tell? Send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.