In Praise of the Backyard Summer

The summer of the pandemic means more neighborhood adventures and a continuing education in resilience

By Maggie Doherty

Summer 2020 is going to be the summer we explore our yard. When things were normal, my summer goals were pages long no matter if I was pregnant, had an infant, new business, summer school, or a kitchen remodel. That’s how it goes in Montana: summer is high time and you best get out and play, play, play.

Well, this summer, the summer of the pandemic, my goals have changed. We’re not going to our beloved cabin on the northern shores of Lake Huron like normal. We’re not going to celebrate my grandmother’s 91st birthday with shrimp cocktail and daisies on the island she’s called home for many years. Oh, we’ll still have shrimp cocktail and vases filled with daisies, but we’ll do it from the Montana porch.

Before COVID-19, our family had planned to travel, to camp, and to visit relatives and friends in the both the Great Lakes region and the Northwest. The stakes are too high to safely do so. We don’t want to risk the health of our own family or anyone else’s. This year we’ll make the most of what our backyard has to offer, which, luckily for us, does extend to some local trails where we can freely roam. And, as we remind our curious and sometimes worried son, while things have changed there are still many things that have remained constant.

Sure, we can’t see his paternal grandfather who lives in Washington for our annual camping and river trip, but Papa D does know how much his grandson loves s’mores. He sent Charlie a box of s’more fixings for us to roast in our backyard fire pit. It’s not quite the same to not have Papa D to help roast marshmallows over the campfire, but we do have his love that transcends any distance.

Seeing that we now have two kids who don’t sleep through the night, pitching a tent in our yard is more likely than packing up the car and finding a spot in the woods. We can always flee inside if the adventures go awry. The stars will still shine over our heads.

Perhaps I’m harboring more disappointment than my children about this altered summer, yet summer is still here. A summer that means more neighborhood adventures and a continuing education in resilience. I’m beyond lucky to have two little ones who know that it doesn’t always matter where we travel to, be it home or around the world, just as long as we’re doing it together.

Maggie Doherty is the owner of Kalispell Brewing Company on Main Street.