Summer Nostalgia I: Lost Summers

Two or three weeks ago Vancouver was still in the midst of a “non-summer.” There had been very few warm and sunny days. Sasamat Lake was still cold. I felt uneasy, almost as though I was in mourning for everything that summer meant to me. This year it was passing me by.

On July 15 I went for a hard bike ride that took me 2K uphill to Mundy Park and my old Coquitlam neighbourhood. For the first time in years, I rode to Blue Mountain Park, a place I visited many times with my son Abebe when he was a toddler—over 20 years ago!


Blue Mountain Park: Abebe used to love playing around this waterfall.

I also rode a few laps on the 400m gravel track across the street from Blue Mountain Park. When I lived up in Coquitlam, I often injected some speed into my bike rides with 20 or 30 laps on that track. I loved the view to the southeast of far-off Mt. Baker.


The track at Como Lake Middle School. Too stormy a day to see Mt. Baker.

That ride gave me a good workout. It was also a bit of an adventure, especially when a storm seemed imminent just at the place where I was farthest from home. But the ride didn’t feel like a summer ride. It was a trip back in time, bringing back memories that left me aware of what I have lost.

That day I wrote in my journal:

Lately I’ve been feeling nostalgic for past summers.

This year summer is not right. I’m still wearing jeans and light jackets. I’ve hardly been swimming in the lake, and the icy water is not a relief. My hip is injured—I’m unable to run, so maybe I won’t get to do my Sasamat Lake mini-triathlon this year. Also, though I’m happy to have lots of editing work, it means my hours of idleness have to be carefully stolen.

Nostalgia is perfectly described by the adjective “bittersweet”—because you remember good things, but feel a stab of pain at the realization that they are irrevocably in the past.

For me, summer memories are the strongest. They exert a kind of magic that keeps a part of me unchanged through all the years of childhood, adolescence and adulthood. Oh, those sense-laden memories! Toronto… The all-over sheen of sweat after a few minutes of morning running, the softness of nighttime summer air, and in between the relentless heat, the welcome relief of the air-conditioned library or movie theatre, dozing during the torpid afternoons while cicadas droned… Vancouver…the shocking relief of plunging into cold lake water, watching splendid sunsets from my balcony as the cooling air soothed my nearly-naked body.

So many summer memories are about family. My happiest family memories are of summer vacations spent at a cottage we rented near Parry Sound. Then, a generation later, my sister-in-law Pam introduced all of us to her family’s rented cottages near Minden, and my brothers and I went there with our kids and spouses and Pam’s childhood friends’ families. These cottage experiences weren’t so very different from my childhood ones: the main activities always centred around the lake: swimming, canoeing, diving off the raft; windsurfing and sailing for the more sophisticated. But also: blueberry pancakes, morning coffee laced with Bailey’s (adult pleasures!), board games, cribbage, card games, barbecues, campfires, badminton. Bike rides and runs knowing the lake was waiting at the finish line. No TV. No computers. Lazy strolls in the afternoon to the little convenience store for candy or ice cream.


Minden cottage circa 2002: Abebe dives off the raft.


Abebe and girlfriend Chihiro on the same raft, 2011.
















All of these happy cottage memories revolve around families. That got me reflecting about one of my life’s failures—the ending of my marriage about seven years ago. At the same time, my son Abebe left to go to university in Japan. He has stayed there to work and live with his girlfriend, and visits only once every year or two.

This year I noticed that many of my close friends, relatives, and Facebook acquaintances were celebrating long-term marriage anniversaries. Some of them were eloquent and moving in their public tributes to their spouses of 20, 25, or 30 years. I’m filled with admiration for them. They have made it through the many challenges of marriage and parenthood and are now proud of their children, who are launching into their own adult relationships and careers.

These couples have something I don’t have and will never have. They have a shared history of triumphs, struggles, emotional highs and lows, major achievements and milestones, many of which will live on in their children’s (and potentially grandchildren’s) stories too.

I can’t pass on to my son an extensive family network like the one that my parents created for me and my brothers through their long-term marriage.

If my tone sounds sad here, it is in keeping with my mood during those “non-summer” weeks. Sad, yes, but not bitter. I seldom feel any anger or hurt about my marriage breakdown now; I’m on good terms with my ex-husband, who will always be the father of my son.

Moreover, I’ve been in a happy relationship with my partner Keith for almost seven years. Keith has supported me unconditionally through some hard times; we’ve shared the excitement of starting “creative” careers, and he’s shown me that life after running can still be fun!

But Keith, divorced after a 20-year marriage, has no children so we won’t have a future with a blended family.

I don’t want to glorify marriage and family life either; some couples stay together when they shouldn’t, and not all family gatherings are happy ones. The truth is that I’m a person who thrives on being solitary much of the time, and so was my ex-husband. That’s probably part of the reason we didn’t realize until it was too late how shallow our marriage had become. We took independence too far, and didn’t work on strengthening and adding to the bonds that held us together.


My next post will be a more positive one—because a couple of weeks ago summer finally arrived in Vancouver. I realized that in spite of all the changes in my life, I’ll always be a summer girl. I’ll never lose my capacity to savour summer’s delights.


Boshkung Lake 2011: Sarah, Alan, Abebe, Margo




About nancytinarirunswrites

I used to be known as a competitive runner, but now I have a new life as a professional writer and editor. I'm even more obsessive about reading, writing, and editing than I was about running. Running has had a huge influence on my life, though, and runner's high does fuel creativity. Maybe that's why this blog evolved into being 95% about running, but through blogging I'm also learning about writing and online communication. I'm fascinated by how the Internet has changed work, learning, and relationships. I love to connect in new and random ways!
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2 Responses to Summer Nostalgia I: Lost Summers

  1. bdennisnickerson says:

    Really enjoyed this article Nancy and could actually feel your words. I too am divorced and remarried with no children of my own. My wife has an adopted Chinese daughter (now 15) whom I absolutely adore. But your right, there is something I haven’t quite come to terms with in my failures in life, even though I am very happy in my marriage. It is all a part of the process of coming to terms with who I really am and accepting my failures as life’s lessons in this journey for positive outcomes and deeper inner meaning and peace. Keep up the great writing. Cheers!

    • Thank you Dennis. Most of the time, I am able to accept my imperfections, things left undone, weaknesses… It’s a fine balance, allowing yourself peace, keeping a positive attitude, yet also striving to be better. By seeing my own imperfections I’ve become more humble, and it’s made me admire others who are strong in the areas where I am weak. Also, I’ve learned to look for the good in everyone. Usually when you focus on someone’s good points (sometimes even explicitly acknowledging them), that person blossoms and the good in them keeps growing.

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