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Shell Shocked: The snowbirds are back

By Staff | Jan 3, 2018

Bird watchers, start your count. The snowbirds are back.

This is the time of year when the population of Sanibel exceeds that of China. The hair stylists, massage therapists, restaurant chefs, fitness trainers, toll booth collectors, handymen and fiddlers on the roof all work round the clock to welcome the snowbirds back and cater to their winter whims.

They come from Wisconsin, Dusseldorf, Michigan, Stockholm, Minnesota and Saskatchewan. They come in dog sleds, freighters, stage coaches and Dodge pickup trucks. They pack their summer clothes, golf clubs, pickle ball rackets, sun screen and Grey Goose. They ship their grandchildren by overnight Federal Express.

They plan all summer for the day they return. And judging by the traffic on Periwinkle and the bicycles on the shared paths, the place is jumping. And there are reunions galore among families and friends who haven’t seen each other since last May. Just one afternoon now spent at Bailey’s demonstrates the deep friendships that prevail in Sanibel during every winter.

“Hi, Mary. Did your daughter ever get her nurse’s certificate?”

“Hello, Joan. Thanks for remembering. Yes, she did and is now working in our best hospital. And what about your wayward son? Did he ever settle down with the girl who doted on him?

“No, I’m afraid they had too many issues. He’s decided not to date for a while. He’s working on developing a new app for Apple and can’t be bothered doing anything else. Hey, there’s Bob. Hi, Bob. How was your summer in Los Angeles?”

“Not too great. We have friends who lost their homes to the wildfires, earthquakes, mud slides, droughts and political upheavals. Many are joining us in Sanibel this year. They have no other place to go to.”

And on and on. Catching up with gossip, breaking news, weddings, deaths and ball scores. And all the breaking news from the Sanibel City Council, CROW, “Ding” Darling, new restaurants, new stores, new offerings at the Farmers Market and bargains at Noah’s Ark.

“Is that hawk still sitting on the causeway rail?”

“What’s going to replace that restaurant in the Village shopping center?”

“Has the popcorn man returned to the Farmers Market?”

“What’s the big act this year at Schein Hall at BIG ARTS?”

“What’s the latest scoop on red tide this year?”

“Is that big alligator still hanging around Chateaux sur Mer?”

“What’s going to replace Doc Ford’s on Rabbit and San-Cap?”

Lots of questions. The main one of which is will Sanibel continue to be Sanibel? All the people who live and work here are always asking that question. And the answer always is so far so good.

It’s not easy being a snowbird. We have two distinct lives. The fact that snowbird husbands aren’t allowed to have two wives one from up north and the other in Sanibel has always been an issue for me. Why can we have a car in each driveway but not a wife in each house? Maybe I should initiate a class action lawsuit to change the law. Guys, are you with me?

Coming back to Sanibel every winter reminds me of that scene in “It’s a Wonderful World” when the James Stewart character finally realizes that he’s had a life worth living and greets every landmark in his home town. I’d like to do the same.

Hello, Bailey’s, the beach, the lighthouse, the restaurants, the stores, CROW, “Ding” Darling, the elementary school, the recreation center, BIG ARTS the library, Noah’s Ark, Community House, the Sun Dial, the bicycle paths and the sunsets.

I’m back.

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