“What are you doing this summer?” has always been a question among the parents in my sphere. This year the answers have less to do with family vacations, camps, sports, and childcare. This year the questions really come down to: “Are you going to continue schoolwork?”… “Is your camp/daycare/class open and if so, will you send your kid(s)?”… “Should I send my kid(s)?”… “Are you traveling?”… “What activities are you doing at home?”…
The transition to summer is so awkward this year. As I write this in early June, on our last official day of school and distance learning, it feels as though it should be August 31st. We’ve been home for three months. That’s like an entire summer. Already. The kids are fighting more, crying more, and bored with their toys. We go from being perfectly fine to totally and completely sick of each other in 2.3 seconds flat. I’m more prone to either snapping or adopting an attitude of, “Sure. If you want to wear your swimsuit to bed or eat candy for lunch and do those things without my assistance? Cool. Go ahead.” Seriously, how is it not the end of summer?
My sense of time may be skewed, but the calendar doesn’t lie. We’ve got a long way to go.
It’s particularly long when we don’t have our normal summer things to look forward to. Our baseball league held out hope for months only to officially cancel this past week. The two-morning-a-week camp my children have attended for the past two years? Also canceled. We’re signed up for a zoo camp in August I can only assume will go the same way. We canceled our family vacation, a vacation my mom’s family has been taking for over 40 straight years. And let’s not forget The Great Minnesota Get-Together: canceled. Summer 2020 is really bringing an entirely new meaning to the term “cancel culture.”
Still. Regularly-scheduled plans or not, summer is here.
When I think back to summers growing up, my own memories are sprinkled with scenes from softball and dance camp and Summer Academy and family vacations and Twins games. But when I think back harder, more of my memories are made up of the regular, ordinary days of summer.
The bulk of my summer looked like playing with friends, eating ice cream cones, and biking for miles and miles. It smelled like the steaks and burgers my dad made on the grill and tasted like the freshest sweet corn from our favorite roadside stand. It looked like laying on our deck and reading stacks of books in the dappled afternoon light. It sounded like blasting music as we drove with the windows down. It felt like the stacks of paper and crayons I would drag out to our front porch and sit doodling with on the warm concrete for hours.
Summer 2020 will be filled with those things and more. The days are going to be full of sunshine and 90-degree temperatures. We’ll slather on the sunscreen and bug spray. Our bikes and scooters have already been on many family bike rides. The bonfire pit and stack of s’mores supplies sit ready and waiting. The inflatable pool, water table, sprinkler, and stash of water guns ensure our swimsuits will still get plenty of use. Our favorite ice cream spots are still open. The tattered blanket sits folded in the back of our minivan for impromptu picnics.
Losing a summer of special activities is a loss for sure. I feel it. I don’t want to minimize it. I’ve shed my tears over the things my own family is missing. But I don’t want to dwell there. I want to remember how much summer there still is to look forward to. Sometimes it’s going to look wonderful and relaxing and pretty close to normal. Other times, like on day number 473 of August during the summer-that-feels-like-it-will-never-end, we’re going to be losing our minds.
Vacation or no, baseball or no, beaches or no, we still get an entire June, July, and August to fill with the things of summer. And so very many of those things are anything but canceled.
Let me present to you the understatement of the century: things are different this year. Different in so many ways. So here’s to ice cream. And to sprinklers. And to perfectly-roasted marshmallows. Here’s to the parts of summer we get to keep, to pass on, and to celebrate. Here’s to finding more to summer this year than we originally thought possible. Here’s to us raising our glasses of iced coffee, lemonade, sweet tea, and slushy cocktails to the things we don’t have to miss out on at all.