For years my family and I have endured each moment of endless harsh New England winters, and fickle, damp, and cold New England springs with one goal in mind: “Get. To. Summer.”
Summer is our time
Summer is our time and, to quote a dear college friend, we “make the most of it.” For years now, our summers have been lived on the go as we boomerang from beach day to lake days; from road trips searching for swimming holes, to road trips searching for new antique shops; from food and street fairs to barbecues and drinks with friends.
Living in New England we can hop across state borders in search of summer fun with an ease that baffles my Midwest friends, and we took full advantage of ice cream stands, seafood shacks, beachfront bars, and funky coffee shops from Maine to Massachusetts and across to Vermont. Our washer and drier kept busy supplying us with clean, dry beach towels, and our car carried enough sand from our chairs, umbrellas and sandals to construct an entire beach of our own. Summer time was glorious and we went at full tilt until we slid into Labor Day tanned, exhausted and happy.
Not this summer.
This summer we are stuck
Travel restrictions and quarantine requirements across state lines, beaches requiring reservations to comply with reduced capacity rules, social distancing, no more cookouts with shared dishes, no more inside restaurant dining, no more movies or theater, and the general prevailing wisdom that everyone is safer at home has made for a different summer, a quieter summer, some would say a more boring summer.
At first, I was devastated and wanted to sink into despair as I sullenly contemplated this new reality. But as Memorial Day melted into June, and June somehow became the Fourth of July, I realized that this year was giving us something we had never had before in our kamikaze quest to soak up every last bit of summer fun. It was giving us time to pause.
Every summer, there comes a day when the clouds and rain take over and the temperatures dip low enough to drag a sweatshirt out from where it has lain buried under tank tops and shorts. A day with no outdoor fun to be had. A day we can’t help but sink into our chairs with a book, an overdue TV binge, or luxuriate in a nap just because we can. And every summer I always say “a cool rainy day in summer can be a gift, because it gives us time to pause.”
Maybe this summer is the pause we needed
Maybe that’s what this summer is — a pause. A summer to stop the rushing from one thing to the next. A summer to finally grow, rather than neglect, the flowers I plant in pots on my front steps each May, (and toss out like clockwork every July when they give up the ghost because I’m never home to tend to them).
A summer to spend enjoying that beautiful deck furniture that often seems neglected as we race from place to place. A summer to linger at the breakfast table over that second cup of coffee, or try to make fancy cocktails ourselves rather than spending the money to sip them on restaurant patios. A summer to lounge and watch the neighborhood kids at our tiny condo pool (such a luxury!) rather than driving by it on our way to swim somewhere else.
There are things we miss of course: a hot night spent in the A/C of a local movie theater eating buttery popcorn until our lips are numb from the salt, the relief of the cool dark of a favorite restaurant after a day blistering on hot beach sand, the thrill of the overture of a musical at one of the dozens of wonderful summer theaters that dot our state, and the simple joy of spontaneous meet-ups with our friends.
But in spite of all that feels lost, this summer also gifted me something I didn’t know I needed until it was in front of me: the utter deliciousness of the longest stretch of time my daughter and I have lived under the same roof since she was in kindergarten. Now, at 21, with a demanding (albeit it, remote) summer job, and the omnipresent concerns about the virus, she is living solely with us, rather than splitting her time as she usually does with the wonderful family she has at her dad’s house.
There are times it’s too much togetherness but there are also times when she’s everything that keeps me going: her presence, her humor, her energy and her astonishing ability to absorb and handle the twists and turns of pandemic life.
I am struggling like everyone else, but trying to take the long view
There is much to be angry or sad about these days, and I am in no way minimizing the tremendous loss and the uncertain future we all grapple with. There are times when I feel I will drown from worry over what will happen in August when/if my daughter returns to her college campus for her senior year.
There are times when I want to throw something in anger at all that has been taken from young people like her on the cusp of their ‘real lives.’ There are times when I just want to take off for the day like we used to without worrying if we have our masks, or what will be open, or about something as mundane as where we can stop for a restroom break.
But when those big feelings start to overwhelm me, I try to take a step back, look at what is in front of me right now – a front step full of flowers, a new book on my nightstand, a delicious second cup of coffee, the laughter of the toddler next door, my wife’s funny wisecracks, and even my daughter’s eye roll as she catches me watching her. So, we live in the pause – knowing that even the longest of pauses cannot last forever, and that summer will come again.
More to Read:
The Storm We Face Is Scary, But Together We Will Weather It – To read more of Katie Collins’ beautiful writing, take a look at this piece she wrote at the beginning of the spring.
Is My Family’s Travel Destination or Teen’s College Town Safe: New Tool Shows How to Tell – If your family has a plan to travel this summer, for college drop off or a family trip, this site will give you the insight you need before you leave home.