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First thing this morning I sent out a Tweet: “OK #sunnyFlorida you sucked me in yesterday but now it’s time to get my blog on!”

Sucked me in is an understatement, and the Florida lifestyle wasn’t the only thing to blame for my leisurely attitude yesterday. I have a new obsession (Yes Mom, I said obsession), and anyone who has opened the pages of Suzanne Collin’s Hunger Games trilogy or, like me, downloaded it on your Kindle, knows what I’m talking about. And with the movie coming out next week, and a tentative promise of a midnight showing for the kids, I made it my mission to read at least the first book in the series.

 

Well, two days later I am one blog short, but I have completed, not one, but TWO of the three books, and by the cliffhanger just left in “Catching Fire,” the third will be history by the time I make my return trip to New England.

So at least I can return home and feel as though I accomplished SOMETHING this week!

Accomplishing things in The Villages, one of the fastest growing (and “friendliest) retirement communities in Florida, is not easy though. One is surrounded by constant reminders that The Villages is a place to have fun and relax. It’s an” all play and no work” attitude that permeates the landscape here, and there is some serious drinking (and golfing) going on around town. Seriously, how can anyone expect to get any work done when you are surrounded by signs like this, just luring you out to play?

And meals that consist of this:

Yes, we have cocktails with every meal down here!

When I return home I will definitely be well-rested and relaxed, but I may need a temporary stint at rehab to dry out. Not only does hanging in The Villages give you an excuse to relax, nap, and drink, but it really and truly begins to alter you personality.

Don’t believe me? Exhibit #1

My dad, 64, retired GE pipefitter, hardworking, family man, dirty-joke teller (especially when my sister is around), temper boiling, loving dad, husband, and Papa, and all around pain in the ass.

My mom, 62, a retired teacher/principal/assistant superintendent, all about family kind of woman, non-getter of dad’s jokes, mild-mannered, confidant, goal-setter and go-getter, dedicated mom, wife, and Mima, and the only person in the world who can put up with my dad’s bullshit (and tell him it like it is).

Well at least that’s how I’ve always known them, with a whole lot more I could add in there, too. But down here it is a different story. I hardly recognize these two, cheerful, laid-back aliens inhabiting my parents bodies. Where did my parents go? They golf on a regular basis (I don’t think  I recall ever seeing either of them play a sport, except a long ago softball league that my dad played in when I was VERY little). They party, and I haven’t seen that side of them since I was in elementary school and they used to come home from their Friday night bowling league with friends for eggs and hash. Not only that, they party on weeknights, and I’ve seen my mom stay up past 8 p.m. on many an ocassion. (That is a rarity for her up North). My dad is sporting a pretty good tan, with the sock lines to prove it. The healthy glow is usually reserved for my mom, but she seems fine sharing that with dad. And the two of them are part of Red Sox Nation, the Parrotheads (I didn’t even know they knew who Jimmy Buffet was), and a number of other social clubs and leagues that keep them preoccupied when they want to be. And then there is their house. A far cry from their small, cozy home on the lake in the Berkshires. This is a contemporary, tropical, oasis. Open concept, white and bright, and there are no “grandma chairs” to be found (sorry mom, loving the black leather better). It’s still cozy and inviting, but it exudes a much different kind of energy than the house back home. Maybe it’s because down here they aren’t Mima and Papa who count on the majority of their social life taking place on the sidelines of their grandchildren’s sporting events. Here, they are fun, smiling, super-social and CALM (not that they aren’t fun at home, but the calm and super-social are new to me). And their house reflects all that and more.

But that’s not the biggest changes I’ve seen in my parents since they became Village snowbirds. No there is something much more distinct about the North and South Mom and Dad, and I had to stop and admire it a couple times already down here to really let it sink in. There is a mood, a connection, a symbiosis of sorts about how they are with each other and those around them. Someone even described my dad as being laid back, and low-key. What? Are we talking about the same person? Here, where there is no stress or interruptions from kids and grandkids, and the normal goings on up home, my parent’s love and appreciation for each other really shines. I know they love each up North, too, but they seem to be such better partners down South. Maybe it’s because instead of doing the yardwork like he does at home, my dad has a landscaper to do it for him, so no bitching when the lawnmower breaks or a snowstorm has him spending an entire day clearing out the driveway. Instead of trying to figure out what meals to have next, my parents know they have any number of options in the Villages to keep them well fed, without worrying if there is anything in the fridge, and usually those meals will take place surrounded by friends, cocktails and an air of celebration on what would be an ordinary Tuesday night at home.  There are no schedules, and few appointments, and if my dad wants to spend the day reading the paper on the lanai or taking a nap he can.

If my mom wants to grab her Mp3 player and headphones and head to the pool for the afternoon, she can do that, too.

These people drive around in their pimped-out golf carts, waving to their neighbors and dancing in the Village Squares at night.

My parent’s worries are fewer, and thus, their love for each other get’s to take centerstage thus becoming stronger in the process, their words a little kinder without the stress. I realized that the second day I was here, when my mom actually said to my dad, “Yup, you were right,  I was wrong!” and it was said with a smile, not a single note of sarcasm evident. My dad repeated the exact same phrase to my mom the next morning, and for those of you who don’t know my dad … HE NEVER ADMITS TO BEING WRONG up North, unless the words are dripping with sarcasm. I don’t know. There’s something about The Villages … and I like it. It’s a good thing I have a plane ticket home on March 20, or I just might never leave. Mark, when are you retiring??? I’ve found our new ride waiting for us down here.

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