I always detested Labor Day. When we lived in Atlanta it was the first sign of winter’s approach. The temperature in our pool seemed to drop to an unacceptable level overnight. My thoughts shifted from summer fun to fighting frost and ice on my car windshield each morning before going to work. Atlanta winters as now remembered are probably colder than were actually experienced, the sky greyer. What lingers in memories is often “Photoshopped” to suit our biases, and winter was always one long period I would have been content to fast forward through.
We moved to Fort Lauderdale in 2001 and my view of the calendar flipped, Labor Day then anxiously anticipated. As you get older, I find different periods in life, often framed by large or very significant events, can become as chapters in a book. Big events tend to shake things up, can mark what seems like a completely other existence, or at least a time unto itself. Marriages, deaths and births can define such periods. I’ve never had a child but imagine including a whole new person in your life is filled with unanticipated lifestyle modifications, defines the start of a new chapter for many.
My own chapters have been framed more by moves. Fort Lauderdale was entirely different from Atlanta and Winter Park – thankfully – much different than there. But even since being here, the last year and a half, with my efforts to focus on and help promote small businesses and the uniqueness of the Winter Park community, certainly a new, quite enjoyable chapter has begun.
The last day of December and the first day of January may not look a lot different, but the idea of a new year encourages reflection on the past, a desire to remedy and renew, resolve to change. Many a gym membership and engagement ring have been purchased with just that mindset. I’ve never been terribly good at resolutions, but in this new year new goals to complement previous ones are taking hold.
In the last several weeks I’ve been constructing correspondence to the mayor and city commissioners in my head, desiring to share some recent thoughts and experiences. I know they get tons of such communications and my thoughts relate generally to all residents, so I decided a column might suffice. We often think of taking discussions of current issues and opportunities directly to community decision makers; but, I’m fortunate to have sort of an open letter here each week.
I’ve been turning into my mascot, Parker the Owl, for a while. I’ve written here before about the experience and I will tell you I will treat costumed characters differently for the rest of my life, because I can assure you whoever is inside considers that view a direct window into the psyche of those they encounter. Psychiatrists should consider trading in the couch for such a furry viewpoint.
As I became Parker over the holidays, the responses to being the big owl in an ‘I LUV Winter Park’ t-shirt along Park Avenue became more overwhelmingly consistent, with passersby responding the same again and again and again, saying simply: I LUV Winter Park, too. When you hear it so many times, well, you know you’re on to something. Hearing these people communicate what is such a simple, and I believe earnestly felt message, along with being called “The Winter Park Owl” on a Local television station after our flash mob, I’ll confess Parker began to feel a bit of weight on his shoulders. These were not sought after goals, but having experienced them, I’ve felt a need to reassure my friends and neighbors that to any degree that is ever perceived, I feel very honored and fortunate for it and we – Parker and I – will only conduct ourselves in a way which conveys our unbelievably positive feelings for this community. “I LUV Winter Park” was never just a convenient, catchy name, but also a sincere feeling.
In the last few weeks on my facebook pages I’ve been reminded of some really wonderful things, lessons we’ll learn in life, but tend to forget and need to learn again. Among them is that it is often times the most simple, and simply beautiful things in life which have the greatest impact, which receive the warmest reception. I’ve posted about Barred Owls outside my bedroom window communicating with others nearby, the wonderful character of Casa Feliz windows, the light and delicate flowers of Plumbago, of squirrels getting trapped in our house and the resulting pursuit and more, to then receive and read such unexpected sweet comments, had some express to me how much they miss living here, wish to do so again and how much they enjoy my posts. It is the little things among those “Photoshopped” memories which are most longed for, just as it is the frost and ice on a windshield which is the focus on my disdain for an Atlanta winter now.
I have no idea if this year will become the beginning of a new chapter, or the end of a previous one, but whatever it contains, I’m hopeful to bring some true firsts – as in they are nowhere else, anywhere – to my new adoptive hometown. I see for myself, and hear from those who visit, who are no longer living here, what a unique and wonderful place it is. Thus, I believe it deserves no less.
Clyde Moore operates local sites ILUVWinterPark.com and ILUVParkAve. com, and aims to help local businesses promote themselves for free and help save them money, having some fun along the way. Email him at iluvwinterpark@ earthlink.net or write to ILuv Winter Park on Facebook or Twitter. Check out his column on WPMObserver.com by navigating to “Columnists” > “Clyde Moore”