As we get set to go back to school and work on Tues, the question on everyone’s lips is, “How was your summer?”
So how do you answer that? Is it fair to tell them your summer sucked bigtime? Or do you just smile and say, “Great, my summer was great. And yours?”
I think this year for me the honest answer would have to be – “It wasn’t. It just wasn’t.”
Over the years I have come to anticipate summer as a relaxing time to rest, goof off with my kids, catch up on stuff at home, sleep in, visit friends, and just generally do nothing. This summer wasn’t remotely like that. It was fractured, busy, and sometimes stressful and emotional, but also visited with some amazingly wonderful experiences.
During the first week of July I was busting my ass trying to get Brianna sorted and packed, ready to ship to Alberta. We went through everything she owned, deciding whether to toss, keep in storage, or ship. We packed nine boxes and took them down to the Greyhound office to send ahead of time so they’d be there when she arrived. We also packed many more boxes to be placed in Stephen’s storage unit for the time being. And we won’t mention how many bags went to charity. During that same week I was also trying to get organized for Stephen’s and my camping adventure, scheduled from the 9th to the 19th.
Camping was lots of fun. We spent the first five days on top of a mountain in Black Moshannon State Park in Pennsylvania. We came down off our mountain to explore caves, go for long scenic country drives, check out different restaurants, and visit a street art fair in State College. After our five days were up, we moved to a different mountain top, this one in Allegheny State Park in New York. From here we explored some more caves, checked out a seriously cool bridge, wandered a great scenic hiking area, found a yummy restaurant at a marina, and rented a pontoon boat for a four hour cruise all on our own. Stephen was accosted by a flock of ducks interested in stealing his ice cream and I got to take photos of fun signs. No idea when it became a habit of mine to photograph signs, but it seems to have become a regular occurrence. Mind you, so has photographing fungus.
Returning home after that relaxing and much needed getaway, we threw ourselves into the final preparations for Brianna’s departure, and also for the farewell/birthday party we had planned for the 27th of July. You see how time is slipping away? The party was fun. A lot of Brianna and James’ friends came to say goodbye and wish them well, and a number of my friends came to celebrate my 50th birthday, which was coming up in just two weeks. Stephen manned the BBQ, while everyone else brought salads, desserts or treats. I have to say, no one went away hungry!
Brianna and James left for Alberta on July 29. Marion had come down for the party and she stayed with me until the day after they left. Marion grounds me; she keeps me calm and stable when it seems like everything is blowing up around me. When my ex walked out, she was the first person I turned to, and naturally I turned to her to help me deal with the emotional side of saying goodbye to my beloved daughter as she prepared to travel thousands of miles away. I never really expected this. I thought I would have the four years of university to become accustomed to her not being around, but having her home for all the holidays. Instead, we went from her being here all the time to poof, gone. It’s been a hell of an adjustment for me.
However, there is no rest for the wicked, and I promptly threw myself into getting her room cleaned up ready for the painter to come. I had promised Sean he could move into her room, which is much larger than his and has far more storage space, so he had chosen a lovely shade of deep wedgewood blue for the walls which made a gorgeous contrast with the white woodwork and furniture already in the room. My boy has good taste!
No sooner was the painter finished, and we had Sean more or less settled in his new room, than it was time for Stephen’s birthday surprise for me. Knowing that it was going to be a difficult time for me with Brianna leaving, and also considering that my 50th is supposed to be a milestone birthday, Stephen surprised me by booking a cruise to the Bahamas aboard the Disney Dream! Sean accompanied us, and we boarded the ship actually on Aug 14, which is both my birthday and Stephen’s. Yes, you read that right. We have the same birthday.
The cruise was AWESOME! The ship is magnificent, the staff are so attentive and helpful, the food was delicious, the weather was perfect and our port excursions were incredible! We went ashore in Nassau for a city tour which was informative and fun, and then we did some shopping prior to returning to the ship. The next day we stopped at Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay for a beach day. Stephen had booked us for a parasailing experience there. Even though Stephen had assured me there was no swimming or water immersion involved, I was still very nervous and apprehensive, being a non-swimmer. He discreetly mentioned this to the crew on the boat, and they fell all over themselves making me feel comfortable and safe. They were wonderful. The whole experience was simply incredible. The feeling as you lift off from the boat, supported only by the wind beneath the parachute; the peace and tranquility as you float along forty stories above the water; the beauty of the water stretching out beneath you; and yes the disappointment when you realize they are beginning to reel you in and your ride is almost over. But not, of course, until they let you right down to the ocean and your feet drag through the water before they let you go back up high enough for a safe landing on the boat. I absolutely loved parasailing.
After parasailing, Stephen returned to the ship to pick up his wallet, which he had accidentally left behind, while Sean and I continued to explore Castaway Cay. We had made arrangements to meet for lunch at the bbq restaurant. So Sean and I roamed along, had our photos taken with Minnie Mouse and Goofy, did some shopping, and just generally enjoyed the island. When we met up with Stephen he asked how we’d enjoyed the parasailing. I was quite enthusiastic when I said I’d loved it and would gladly go again any time. Good thing I said that because on his way back from the ship to meet us, he’d stopped and booked a second parasailing excursion for us at 3:00! I am so spoiled. Prior to the second parasailing, we spent some time on the beach, and actually went into the water! It was so warm and beautiful. A teeny crab thing swam by, intriguing both Sean and me. I was just commenting about wishing I could get some photos, but not wanting to take my camera into the water when suddenly a voice rang out, “You would like your photos taken?” We turned, and there was a Disney photographer, up to his chest in water, camera held high. Of course we would like photos taken! I have to say, I’ll bet some of the other staff envied him his job on that hot summer day!
That night was formal night on the ship, and I wore the beautiful blue evening gown Stephen had insisted on buying me a few months earlier. Made no sense at all to me at the time. Now I understood. He had also bought me a stunning sapphire and diamond bracelet and ring set to go with my dress, and as I dressed for dinner I felt like a princess. I have to digress here and get all sappy about how wonderful Stephen is to me and how special he makes me feel. He does all these things for me, gives me beautiful gifts, and tells me it’s no more than I deserve, and that he loves to spoil and pamper me. I am so very lucky to have found him. And as if he hadn’t already given me enough, that evening after dinner he surprised me with an exquisite gold palm tree pendant, encrusted with emeralds and diamonds. Somehow he had managed to buy it in Nassau without me being aware….you figure out how.
After the cruise we came home and did laundry. Rather a letdown, no? And I went back to work, training aboard the buses in the heat of the summer. And then it was time for the back to school start up meeting. And then it was time for Sean’s registration for high school. And then I was left sitting here wondering what on earth happened to my summer. However, as I wrote this I realized my attitude towards my summer was changing. Truly, it was a wonderful summer with lots of amazing experiences, but – it just wasn’t long enough. So I guess that will be my answer on Tues when everyone asks how my summer was – amazing, but not long enough.