Vignettes From Florida

We have just come home from spending a week with my Dad in Fort Myers, Florida. My Dad lives for six months of the year in a gated community, or “the compound” as we like to call it, where you have to be at least 55 years old to be allowed to live there, and there are rules about how long young visitors such as grandchildren are allowed to stay. I used to find the idea of living in a community like his a little bit horrifying, but now that I am getting pretty close to 40, the idea is growing on me. The people here are youthful. They are very healthy and fit because they can be really active all year around. The community where my Dad lives is a tennis and golf community. There is a full 18 hole golf course that wends its way through the property, along with both clay and hard tennis courts. There are also approximately seven swimming pools, and a community centre with pool tables, a workshop, and large communal areas for playing bridge or hosting parties. When Tony went with my Dad to play round robin tennis one morning, there were a number of men and one woman who were playing that day. The woman was in her 70s, and had the hardest serve of any of the players there that day, Tony included. The oldest player that day was 92. All this and not to mention the walkers and cyclists that are out all the time. I don’t know, but maybe it wouldn’t be so bad?


Going through security in Toronto before boarding our US-bound flight was an experience. We were not randomly chosen for the extra security screening like I was when I flew to Toronto a couple of weeks ago, but the screening was intense. It took us about 20 minutes to get through, and that was all searching time, not line-up time. Each of the four of us had a carry-on bag, and the agent took every item out of each bag and examined it – this included thumbing through the pages of every book we were bringing on board. We all had to put our hands into our pockets and around our waists and then have our hands swabbed, with the swabs being read by detecting equipment. They even made the girls do this, and I was not prepared properly to answer their questions about why this was necessary. I hate that they have to be exposed to these sorts of things.

We have all learned to be serious while going through airport security. Answer the questions, but don’t try to engage. Of course B, my five year old who will talk to everyone, wasn’t aware of this unwritten rule. When the agent started on her bag, she told him that she had LOTS of things in there! She then pointed to the pocket that contained her sunglasses, and the other pocket that had her strawberry gum, and then she told him about the books in her bag that she was going to read on the plane. The agent was a very serious type, and though he never actually cracked a smile, his eyes did soften as she chattered away to him.


Things are a little different in Florida than in Ottawa: the portion sizes are huge. My medium diet coke at Burger King was the size of a Supersize in Ottawa. There were bottles of wine for sale at Wal-Mart for $2.97. I feel young and very skinny there. When my girls were playing on a play structure at the beach, there was a mother playing on the structure with her little girl, with a cigarette in her hand. I have never ever seen that at home.


House prices there are still very low after dropping during the US housing crisis. The homes are starting to sell again which is an improvement, but the prices stay low. One problem people were having for a while was that when children of the residents inherited a parent’s condo, the children were unable to sell the units, but sometimes they couldn’t always afford to pay the condo fees on the units. I’m still not sure what those people did.


Travelling with an eight-year-old and an almost six-year-old is hundreds of times better than travelling with smaller children. At the airport we saw parents lugging strollers and car seats and diaper bags, while we had our big girls who could walk everywhere and carry their own backpacks. I remember the first time we went to my Dad’s with both girls, we brought with us two car seats, a stroller, and even a playpen. It was a ton of work just to get there. Watching the other parents at the airport still made my stomach tighten into those old familiar knots just a little bit, just enough to remember what it was like. It’s a world away from where we are now. Our girls were just so good throughout every minute of this trip. They played together, they could swim without us having to be in the pool with them constantly. On the flights they watched the TV screens and read independently, and I could read my book, or do what I’m doing now which is type this blog post (in some crazy turbulence, I must add).


My girls spent the week in the pools, at the beach, and starting to learn how to play tennis and golf. It was relaxing and refreshing and I‘m really grateful to my Dad for shipping us down for a week in the sun and taking good care of us while we were there. We will miss my Dad, the warmer weather, and of course, getting around the compound by my favourite mode of transport, the golf cart.

About Finola

I am an Ottawa area Mom, writer-want-to-be and coffee legend in the making.
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4 Responses to Vignettes From Florida

  1. Anonymous says:

    welcome home!

  2. Jenn N says:

    We made that trip last year – to Sarasota – to spend time at a 'compound' with G's parents… it's seriously the Fountain of Youth!!! I hear what you're saying about travelling with big kids – remember relying on the kindness of strangers when you were lugging seats and strollers and playpens? Now we get to be the ones with the sympathetic smiles holding the door for the the frazzled… glad your travels brought you all home safely!

  3. XUP says:

    Airport security – as if frisking down little girls is going to stop the determined terrorist. I don't know what they're thinking. And I can certainly understand the appeal of a gated community. First, because it IS a community. I've always wanted to live in a community. Also, it's safe. You're with people your own age and with many of your own interests. They've probably got everything they need right in or near the compound – medical, dental, shopping, hairdressers, etc.?? Sign me up!

  4. Finola says:

    c – Thanks Cath, let me know when you are free for our phone and wine date 🙂

    Jenn – Yes, it's so nice to be able to help others lugging all that stuff around now. Also, the babies crying on the plane didn't bother me one little bit because they weren't mine! Also makes me realize the decision not to have a third child was a sound one 🙂

    Xup – You are exactly right. My Dad never even has to lock his door, even at night. Also once people can no longer drive, there is a bus that takes people to the grocery store, the bank, the beach etc so people can stay independent much longer.

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