I have spent almost every moment of almost every day of the past 16 months with my husband and three kids. And our dog. The global pandemic has shown me, more than ever, the value of family. I feel fortunate that I have a great job where I am surrounded by smart, thoughtful people, and that I have close, wonderful friends who have my back, but really, the centre of my world is my family. That’s why July 2021 is so unique. For the first time in over a year, my family has spread out across Canada. I have three kids, and they are in three provinces.
My life, like that of so many people, changed on March 11th, 2020, when the WHO declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. Within 72 hours my office closed, the children’s school made plans to switch to online learning and everything around us shut their doors, from the ski hill to the local library to small shops in our neighbourhood. We hid inside our homes, into the safety of our four walls and warm embrace of our families.
The fact that I had a comfortable home, surrounded by my husband and three kids, was not lost on me. Even a year into the pandemic, when online learning continued and there was still no end in sight to Ontario’s lockdown, my three kids kept me sane. Okay, sometimes insane too, when they refused to go to bed or clean up toys or give me just a few minutes of quiet. I got used to this new reality, of life with my family 24/7.
By the middle of May I was fortunate to receive my second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Case counts slowly started to drop and summer plans were on my mind. Would summer camp happen? Could we spend some time at our family country homes in Ontario and Quebec? Would the children ever leave the house again?
Our hopes were dashed when Camp Kadimah had to close for another season. But things quickly looked up when my sister and her husband invited Matthew, our eldest, to spend some of the summer with them in New Brunswick. I mean really, how could I say no when someone is offering to take my kid for weeks?
Child #1: Check. Going to New Brunswick.
Julia, my older daughter, HAD to go to camp. Any camp. She joined forces with the first friend she made at Kadimah, and we signed the girls up for overnight camp in Ontario.
Child #2: Check. Going to overnight camp in Ontario.
Overnight camps don’t take 5-year-olds, nor does my sister. And as I personally had coined the phrase when I was younger… Little persons have to be with their parents, I knew that no matter where I went, Nessa would be with me. If our offices were still closed and the summer was coming, then off to Quebec we would go, to my husband David’s ancestral country home, deep in the mountains by the lake.
Child #3: Check. Going to the country house in Quebec.
And that is how our summer story came to be: three kids. In three provinces. Matthew is living it up in New Brunswick, by the sea. He is eating new and exciting foods, he is attempting to be flexible, living with many boys, and he’s learning how to sail on the ocean. Julia is experiencing life at a different camp, closer to home, and it’s definitely an adjustment. And for our youngest, well, so far it’s the Summer of Nessa. She’s it, and she knows it. She’s lucky that she’s so cute.
We are just about one week into our full summer plans, and I feel really blessed. It all began on my birthday last week, when I woke to a mini celebration of a homemade breakfast, with cheesecake (yum!), and birthday presents. Then our road trip began, as we dropped Julia at her camp then drove east to Ottawa.
I can’t remember the last time I had stayed at a hotel. It was a bit of a surreal experience, as we walked into an eerily empty lobby and checked in. There was but one valet and one concierge on site. I could count the guests on one hand. It was so quiet that the cheesy phrase, you could hear a pin drop, was true.
We enjoyed a quiet evening and leisurely morning in Ottawa (including breakfast at a great patio, with our dog), then we were back in the car and over the border into Quebec. There is a wonderful feeling that I get as our car climbs into the mountains and we make our way to our hidden gem of a country house. It’s like our car knows all the curves in the road as we travel through the countryside. The anticipation of the arrival is as wonderful as the actual arrival. As our car turns into the driveway and we see the decades-old, kind of rickety house, and the spectacular lake in front of us, we are filled with a sense of great joy.
And so here I am, on a warm summer afternoon, sitting by the lake and thinking about how not long ago I was surrounded by my three kids, locked down in Toronto. Could I have imagined that in July they would be spread across Canada, from Ontario to Quebec to New Brunswick, each experiencing their own unique summer? I am thankful to everyone who helped me make this happen. Three kids. In three provinces. I wonder where we will be next summer.