In July 1951, our family moved to Maine from New York. Even though not quite 6 years old, I would never actually be a true Mainer, according to those fortunate enough to be born here.

Living in Buckfield, Maine, was quite a shock. Going to a one-room schoolhouse with attached outhouses took some getting used to.

Fast forward 60-plus years and that little non-Mainer became a snowbird. Winters in Vacationland can be confining on aging bones, so a condo in Florida had a lot of appeal. Looking at palm trees instead of pine trees was a pleasant change. Wearing shorts and flip-flops in February? Nice.

Still, every morning when I watch Al Roker, my heart is in Maine. Checking the weather app on my phone entails first checking on how the day will be for my family. Will my daughter have to drive in snow or freezing rain? Will my grandchildren go to school?

As much as I enjoy the sun on my face every day, I miss the variety of weather at home. I miss appreciating the sun coming out to melt the freshly fallen snow. I miss going to Hannaford’s and always seeing a familiar face.

I miss my kids.

Making the decision to purchase a second residence would never have happened without everyone knowing that going home for Christmas was mandatory.

After a few winters shuttling back and forth, everyone seemed to adjust to my absence. Hopping on a plane to go home for milestones was simple. I never missed my granddaughter’s birthday.

Until 2020.

Our little group of Floridian friends had a St. Patrick’s Day party all paid for. We were all going to eat corned beef while we enjoyed a fabulous Irish band. Canceled. Put the green away.

The conversation is the same with all my senior peers: “The kids are freaking out!” “Don’t come home!” “Are you wearing your masks?” “Get your groceries delivered!”

And still I persist. The sun on my face must compete with a mask and fogged-up sunglasses. The smiles from strangers are hidden. The automatic social distancing happens without fanfare. The hugs so appreciated after a summer away from new friends are not happening.

The young people in our lives have no realization how fast the clock is ticking, how quickly time is slipping away. They seem to think we will be here forever. Or so I thought until a pandemic hit. Suddenly, I am considered a vulnerable, valuable statistic. Suddenly, I am having to justify going anywhere because my life may be in danger. Suddenly, maybe going home for Christmas is not going to happen.

As annoying as this role reversal is, it is also a powerful reminder of how your people love you. That you truly matter and would be missed.