Like The Lemmings Over A Cliff, We Snowbirds Must Migrate!


It’s time to close up the northern house and head for Florida.

Yes, I know I’m late. Usually Mark and I head south promptly on Dec. 26, joining every other snowbird in the eastern United States as they make their annual post-holiday pilgrimage to the Sunshine State. The highways are clogged, the gas stations have lines and the restrooms are out of toilet paper. Until I became a snowbird, I didn’t realize there was a certain day to leave, but there is. Dec. 26 is the day.

However, I wasn’t ready this year. The north store had two clerks in training. I was working on an estate sale. My sister had come for a visit. And the grandkids hadn’t exhausted me yet. I’m ready now. In fact, I’m more than ready.

It’s cold, but that has never bothered me. I walked to school in Wisconsin in much colder weather than this. (And, as oldsters are accused of complaining, “Uphill both ways!”) Now that I’m in Missouri, I’m already “south.” Just not south enough.

It has snowed several times, and I have absorbed all its beauty. Those black trees with their frosting of white — I love it! But it gets dark too early here; I don’t like climbing into an ice-cold car where I’ve had to scrape off the windshield before I can go anywhere. And I refuse to drag along a heavy piece of outerwear that, once I exit said car, is rather useless.

It’s time to be in Florida. The relentless sunshine extends my day by hours; the palm trees make a delightful clacking sound when breezes blow; my windshield is always clear; and if I’m lugging anything at all, it’s a beach bag.

So, like somewhat tardy lemmings, Mark and I will rush toward the sea early next week.

Which got me thinking.

About lemmings.

If a lemming was truly tardy — say, had stopped to eat a particularly enticing berry — would it race to jump off the cliff with the other lemmings? Or would it slow down as it approached the precipice, look down at its drowning brethren and think, “Waaaait a minute…”?

In the old days, this question would have plagued me for a few minutes, then disappeared with a shrug. But today we have Google, and Google knows everything. The Almighty Google says yes, even a tardy lemming will jump. It has a strong migratory instinct which, when coupled with recurring overpopulation, drives it to swim to a new area. Unfortunately, if the body of water it has chosen to cross is the ocean, things don’t turn out so well for the short-legged rodent.

And so it is with retirees to Florida. Whether on Dec. 26 or Feb. 1, whether we’ve stopped to eat berries or not, whether we’ve even considered the seasonal overpopulation of Florida, we must head for I-95.

Blame our strong migratory instinct.