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Friday, February 25, 2011

Snowbirds

See what I mean about "fainted, diva-like"?
I never heard the term "snowbird" used the way it is in Arizona. (Or if I did, I had no understanding of it.) While my husband and I were living with my sister-in-law, I heard her use the term. She's a very nice lady, and not native to Arizona herself, so I didn't get any negative connotation, just the bare meaning: people with so much money or such a concern for their arthritis pain that they live in Arizona during the winter months, while spending most of the year in their native states of New England, the Midwest, or other potentially snowy places.

Okay, that's their business. Also, the word "snowbird" inevitably brings to mind the classic Fleetwood Mac love song "Songbird" (the version at left ended up on our wedding video). It's such a beautifully evocative word that I never suspected the vitriol with which it could be said. I heard a teenager, certainly a year-rounder and probably an Arizona native, hurl it as an invective against a couple of people probably in their sixties who weren't moving fast enough for the young ones.

I guess I can understand that people who stay here, really call Arizona home, and suffer through the summers, might resent people who only stay as long as they care to, using natives' resources. When I was growing up in Northern California, we had a similar resentment toward people from LA who came North to retire, causing a population spike that might have led to overdevelopment, etc. But it takes a teenager (or similarly evolved individual) to imbue such a lovely word with the profanity I heard that day.

I began to think that my husband and I are sort of poor-man's snowbirds. We've arrived in Arizona just in time for the winter season, and so we've missed the massive storms where we came from, which certainly would have put a kink or two in our backs from shoveling. The similarity ends there, because it's not exactly a vacation home we've set up here with borrowed furniture, and we won't be leaving when the weather gets really hot. But just as Arizona saves the real snowbirds' aching joints, so too has it saved my husband and me from certain economic doom. I still feel like a complete outsider here, but I'd like to offer Arizona my sincere thanks for accepting us when we had nowhere else to go. Arizona has been a perfect model of the ideals expressed in Emma Lazarus's "The New Colossus":

"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"


Since coming to Arizona I have felt slightly less tempest-tossed and vastly less homeless. Wretched, maybe a little, but that's not Arizona's fault. I know there's a lot of controversy because of the people who come across the southern border, but for my husband and me Arizona has opened the golden door. Thank you. 


And thank you all for voting for my exciting project! There's still time to get your votes in! Look here. I'm the sixth pitch down. Thanks, really!