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Donald A. Yerxa


Downsizing

What books should I keep? What stories do they tell?

I had it all planned. After more than thirty years serving on the faculty of a Christian college just outside Boston, I would head to the sunny Gulf Coast of Florida. My days would begin with early morning spiritual and physical activity,then perhaps some fishing, followed by four or five solid hours of professional work—writing and editing poolside on a laptop. Come late afternoon, I would head for—what else?—an earlybird special at one of the many restaurants in the Sarasota- Venice area. Then I would conclude the day at the beach enjoying those breath-taking Gulf sunsets with my wife. That was the plan.

On both sides of my family, Florida has beckoned whenever we Yerxas and Wrights have contemplated retirement. No doubt long Maine winters drove these decisions. But I'd always thought I'd buck the trend. Retiring in Florida conjured up images from Seinfeld of Boca Del Vista: senior tricycles, white belts, and Elaine pleading with Jerry's mother to turn on the air conditioning as she wilted in the heat. Not me! How could I leave the "Hub of the Universe"? I'd tough it out. Order lots of firewood. And pay some neighborhood kid to shovel me out after each snow storm.

A gently persistent wife, however, has worn down my resistance. Being a native of Pittsburgh, she has never shared my love of New England's distinctive four seasons— the mantra diehard New Englanders recite whenever someone mentions moving to warmer climates. But it's more than just my wife's lobbying on behalf of Florida. For example, the cost of the kiln-dried firewood I like to burn has jumped to about $500 per cord. And the army of youthful entrepreneurs who used to hit the streets with shovels after each winter storm has disappeared in my neighborhood. Moreover, concerns I've had about cultural and professional isolation have been allayed: with the Internet, cable, and good phone service I can remain connected to the intellectual circles I cherish, let alone still watch my beloved ...

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