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Shell Shocked: Back to the North

By Staff | Apr 13, 2017

Sanibel’s snow birds are beginning to test their wings. We’re now into April and many seasonal residents are thinking northern thoughts.

We’ve managed to escape the northern tornados, mud slides, floods, blizzards, locust invasions, cattle stampedes and roadside ice capades. We’re now organizing our trips back north – cars, planes, hitchhiking, auto trains and stage coaches.

Being a snow bird is not an easy life. It means having to manage at least two separate homes and all the responsibilities that go with them. Many of us engage the services of northern house inspectors to make sure the gallons of ice cream we’ve left behind are still frozen and the smoke detectors aren’t chirping because the batteries are dead.

We’re also counting on the car we’ve left behind in the northern garage to start up immediately. And we carefully study the utility bills from up north and monitor the graphs they include showing that if it weren’t for the utility companies your northern house wouldn’t still be standing.

The most annoying part of being a snow bird is getting two sets of bills for the very same services: internet access, phone, utility, water, home insurance, mortgages, house inspection, cleaning and landscaping. It literally takes me hours to sort through bills for two homes and three martinis to pay them. It may sound wonderful to non-snow birds to own two homes but the responsibilities and financing involved may not appeal to all. During this winter, I needed to replace my desk top computer, a refrigerator, pool and deck furniture and garage door motors in Sanibel.

And up north, I needed to replace a washer and dryer, outdoor plants and flower beds, three TV’s and a mattress. It’s like running a business. Inventory in, inventory out. But the upside is getting out of the frozen north during the winter months. What could be better than being in Sanibel and watching the sun set over the gulf during the winter months? But I do have to ask myself the following question: how do snow birds handle these two-home responsibilities without succumbing to deep depression and catatonia at times?

The major challenge of closing your Sanibel home to head north is what to leave behind and what to take with you. My wife used to lug multiple suitcases and cartons back and forth. I would take practically nothing. I made sure I had duplicates of everything I needed in either house from golf clubs to clothes. My wife didn’t and she would spend weeks sorting through clothes and household items to take what she thought she needed. Which category are you in?

Snow birds are willing to pay the price for the luxury of two homes because we like the change of seasons, the variety and the change of pace. Once you’re used to being a snow bird there’s no turning back. Sanibel has many of us. We say goodbye to our Sanibel friends when the weather begins to turn warmer up north and greet our northern friends upon our return. We have two separate lives. Most people don’t even have one good one.

Goodbye, Sanibel. A bientot.

-Art Stevens is a long-time columnist for The Islander. His tongue-in-cheek humor is always offered with a smile.