We moved to Isle Royale because of the school district. The street was quiet, and in a friendly neighborhood. When I walked into the house, I knew it was the one we had been waiting for.
I called it our "forever home."
In the end, we lived there for two and a half years. Last summer was our last summer in that house, on that street.
The summer of 2019 was my first summer ever being home with my kids. For the previous 8 years, I sat in my office, gazing longingly at photos on social media, watching stay-at-home parents take their kids to the beach on a sunny summer weekday.
I spent three months planning for the 10 weeks of summer.
I researched fun camps for my then 7-year-old to attend. Baseball, science and robotics, golf, themed activity camps with his friends. I planned an EPIC summer for him.
My 3-year-old daughter attended summer camp at our local KinderCare, our home away from home.
We planned three vacation trips that summer. We sprinkled in beach days and weeks where the kids could be home to play in the sprinklers and spend time as a family.
That summer was the first time that neighborhood kids came to the door asking if my kids could play. Living in a "playdate" world, I never imagined my kids would have the opportunity to have the kind of childhood I fondly remembered.
Apparently running barefoot through the grass and playing make believe with neighborhood kids until the sun goes down isn't a lost art.
Rules were bent. Best friends were made. Doors were unlocked.
Neighbor kids ran from house to house, digging through cupboards for the best snacks. Moms and dads gathered in driveways until long past dark, sipping margaritas and sharing a laugh while the kids ran wild.
It was the first taste of freedom my son experienced - running to friend's houses without mom or dad by his side. By the end of the summer, the older boys would walk my daughter across the street so she could be a part of their games.
We were family. We are family.
Last summer, we shared something magical on Isle Royale. Our kids knew what it felt like to be loved and accepted in their friend's homes. I knew what it felt like to call on a neighbor for support. I saw a glimpse of what community could be and CAN be. Men, women, boys and girls, doing life together. Through scraped knees, loads of laughter and mournful goodbyes.
With COVID-19 on the loose, our 2020 summer was night and day different from the one I described above.
There were no vacations planned. No running down the street barefoot (In Arizona, no brave soul would dare to venture out without shoes).
In August we had a surprise visit from friends. After six months of quarantine and zero playdates, my kids had a friend to play with. It took all of 5 minutes for the kids to take up where they left off. Epic sword battles were waged, Lego forts were created, night swimming and sleepovers were enjoyed. My friend and I spent hours upon hours talking. I could hardly believe we never ran out of things to discuss, share, or laugh about.
There was something magical about watching our kids play with friends like they hadn't done in months.
When school started in Arizona mid-August, it felt like we had two days of summer - those two days when our friends came to visit.
Times are different right now. Who knows how long this "new normal" will last. But there's one thing that remains the same...
Friendship will always outweigh solitude.
There's something special that happens when families come together. It gives me hope. Hope that even in quarantine, we can build relationships and find joy in community with other people.
As Summer ends and Fall begins, I hope you find ways to enjoy community even in these unexpected times.