• Matt Harrison

Summer’s silver lining

I kid you not, I actually heard the words, “Dad, I’m looking in the dirt for worms,” come out of my youngest’s mouth a week ago. I looked over at what she’d been intently doing for the past half-hour and realized her rooting around in the dirt was searching for this creature that I abhor. (I suffer from Scoleciphobia, the fear of worms.) My daughter was covered in dirt. Her hair was a mess. What I thought at first was blood turned out to be raspberry stains around her mouth. It was clear that my five-year-old Paper Bag Princess was having a great summer, completely indifferent to the changes the pandemic had brought upon the season.


It’s the middle of summer and if the pandemic wasn’t raging still, we’d most likely be packing and unpacking, hosting and being hosted, and racing between camps, beaches and waterparks. For example, I’m usually in a panic around June because I can’t remember what day I’m supposed to pick up the Gatineau Park beach pass. This year: who cares, not going to the beach anyways.


Frankly, all that planning is exhausting. But we do it because we feel this desperate compulsion to make the most out of the warmer weather before we’re locked back inside our homes: shivering, mummified in blankets, quaffing NeoCitran and generally abhorring the sight of one another. Even before summer is upon us, back in January and February, my wife and I are usually securing Airbnbs, campsites, calling other mums and dads to find out which camp they’re putting their kid in so our kids have a buddy... I wonder how typical this experience is for others. I usually crave the summer months, but the stress of planning for it begins in early winter and doesn’t end ‘till school starts in the fall.


Someone once told me that, while they share this urge to ‘get away’ in summer, there’s this almost magnetic pull to stay put too. After all, isn’t it a time to enjoy your garden, deck, pool, yard, and local village? Vacationing quickly eats away at those eight precious weeks.


The pandemic is terrible for all the obvious reasons, but I’ll attempt to find a silver lining. (I realize not everyone is in this boat either, so I can only speak for myself. And if your experience has been different, please write us a letter!)


Being forced to stay home this summer has turned this season into one of the most stress-free in recent memory — at least from a planning/packing/picking-up/dropping off perspective. (There are other stresses, for sure.) My kids don’t seem to mind either, and, as my youngest demonstrates, have turned to simpler pleasures. In particular, she’s become a scientist, inspecting every inch of our home for things she’d otherwise miss if she was being shuttled to and fro.


One night, when the girls were racing around the house at dusk, my wife remarked that our kids were having an “80s summer” — a time that surely represents the last period when kids roamed free ‘till dark, when they had time all summer just to do nothing; to be bored, and in that moment of boredom to find, as she put it, “the magic”.


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