We started coming to this place when Older Son was but a lump in a stroller. My parents purchased this home away from snow so that they could escape the miseries of winter. At the time, they were amongst the youngest snowbirds in the building, not much older than I am now. Over the years it became a regular retreat for all of our families, and when Other Mother and Other Father bought their place one floor up, the December exoduses seemed carved in stone. The Husband and I purchased our sanctuary in the building a few years back and a certain circle of completeness was neatly formed.
The characters in the condo seemed to be never-changing. We would return year after year to find the same people with the same stories and the same miseries. True, we would hear about weddings, babies or bar mitzvahs, but they seemed to occur in another space and another time; a space and time to which we could never fully relate. I had a real life of work and family and friends north of the border and these people existed solely in our parallel universe of snow-birding in South Florida.
Then slowly, as my attention was diverted by my real life, things started to change. Every year, one or more of these individuals wouldn't return. Age or infirmity or time had called, but still we carried on and moved forward with those that remained. We kibbutzed and played as though we were safe within our protective bubble of this parallel world. 21 years is a long time to be oblivious, and so it is that I find that I can no longer ignore the realities that have interfered with my parallel universe. This year change has smacked me hard.
The physicality of the building is changing. This is a good thing. The 1980's have been over for decades and this place is in dire need of a facelift. There is much grumbling and much discord from the denizens, but they will survive once they embrace the change. It is a virtual impossibility for every single person to agree on decor and design, and the animus right now is profound, but I have hope that once the mess is over they will move on to the next fight. No, the change I feel runs deeper than tile and carpet. There is a connection that has been severed with the loss of two specific individuals. The first was a kindly gentleman who became a sort of adopted grandfather to all. He was omnipresent in his captain's hat and he always had a hello and a story for all he encountered. He was here the first day I entered the apartment, and his void is felt keenly by all, especially around the pool where he was a regular. The second was a regal lady who was a survivor. Never a hair out of place or a shoe that didn't match the bag, she relished the life she had built. She had her difficult moments, but she and I connected, and I always felt that her inquiries about my children were heartfelt. I will miss her class.
The characters in this parallel universe are changing. I can no longer avoid it. I need to embrace it. I am establishing new connections and new ties that will eventually lead to new memories. My real world and my winter world are converging, and I can no longer cling to the fantasy that time stands still. My bubble has finally and forever burst and I am the better for it. Thanks for the memories.