Esther Riegel is done with that. For real. This time. Truly. For real.
“I can’t stand the snow anymore,” the 66-year-old Tabernacle resident said as he ranted about the latest storm days before it hit. “The cold, cleaning my car, how it keeps you stuck in your house. What do they say this time, six, maybe eight inches for us? Worse if you are by the sea.
“I’m too old to shovel it, not with my bad hip. I don’t have kids, and you can’t get a kid knocking on your door with a shovel to do it for a few bucks. Sometimes you just get stuck.
Riegel shook his head regretfully.
“I told my sister when we came back here that it was a mistake,” she said. “We have to go back to Florida.”
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The years go by. Thirty becomes 60 in the blink of an eye. Youth turns gray. The gas gauge of life is tilting towards emptiness. Snowstorms become a chore. A mailbox change can eliminate Mother Nature’s chilling annoyance.
Riegel echoed several friends in my hometown who trashed their coats and shovels in favor of warmer climes. South Carolina, Southern California, Arizona, Florida. A childhood friend moved from northeast Pennsylvania to Alabama years ago, then more recently to Florida. When we were ravaged by a foot of snow one year, he sent a photo of himself holding a 12-inch ruler standing in his sunny yard to show how much snow he hadn’t received.
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My brother moved to the Gulf Coast of Florida over six years ago. I tell him there are six inches of snow here. Six, huh, he said. Then he tells me that he has just bought a new 6 iron which he uses every Saturday morning from January to December. Thanks dude. He lives about a corner from the beach. Hopefully the sand he visits most regularly is right next to the green.
I understand Riegel’s pain. Adult snow is not children’s snow. Like an aging rocker who’s seen better days, it may seem the same but it’s not. Those glorious days of sledding down snowy hills through the streets of my hometown with so many neighborhood kids are a memory. I wonder what happened to my Flexible Flyer sled and my red rubber boots. Today, when I hear we’re about to be pounded by snow, I back away thinking about having to shovel the driveway, clean my car and scrape the icy scab from the windows while battling the biting wind . Winter and snow have aged badly for Riegel and me. Snow is disco music, members-only jackets and platform shoes. It’s big hair and mules. Better then than today.
I saw a recent story on the US News & World Report website about people and relocation to America. A survey released by United Van Lines ranked the states with the highest outbound percentages. First on the list for the fourth consecutive year: New Jersey. Most people have moved south. The reasons ranged from the pandemic — which I found puzzling since infection rates in the South are the highest in the country — to better job opportunities. Riegel would add another reason.
“We grew up here and then moved to Florida when we were in our 40s,” Riegel said. “Why we decided to come back a few years ago, I can’t explain. We missed our friends and part of the family is still there. But so does the snow.
I saw a website that knocked me down like an avalanche, speaking of snow. On storagefront.com, the title of the article was: 10 places to move if you hate winter. The introductory paragraph said if you hate winter, move to a place where winter never comes.
Who would think?
USA TODAY Network columnist Phil Gianficaro can be reached at 215-345-3078, [email protected] and @philgianficaro on Twitter.
This article originally appeared in the Burlington County Times: Tired of snow, New Jersey woman regrets coming back from the South