Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 07.20.09
Stanstead, Quebec


In the Good Old Summertime, eh?

There's nothing like crummy weather to bring out our cultural obsession over summer. If it's cold or rainy for any extended time after Victoria Day, we get into a froth, a lather even, about what a bad summer it is.

Complaining about the weather is Canada's national pastime, year-round. The winter's too cold, the spring is too wet, the autumn too leafy. But you never see more teeth-gnashing and fist-shaking than during a less than clement summer.

We stand on our porch looking forlornly at the swimming pool, so meticulously cleaned months ago but too cold to swim in by anyone but the stupidest of toddlers.

We repeat obvious statements, like, "It's raining... again!" or "I can't believe it's this cold!" or "Why do I live in this stupid country?"

We pity anyone on vacation during a week of constant rain, secretly delighting in the fact that the law of averages suggests that it will be sunny during our own.

We fret so because we live in a climate where we are granted three, maybe four months a year when we don't have to wear layers on an ongoing basis. Summer is the only time of year when you can yell at your kids, "Get out!" and it doesn't involve fifteen minutes of hunting and gathering boots and scarves. It's when you can actually be outside without just pretending to enjoy yourself.

Since even a good summer in Canada is so short, we try to pack as much as possible into it.

"What are you doing this summer?"

"Well, the kids are doing golf camp, then basketball camp, then rodeo camp. We're tenting at every single provincial campsite, and I've promised the kids they'll see a real wild bear. We're attending the Jazz Fest, Cream Cheese Fest, the Speedo Appreciation Fest. We're visiting six relatives and hosting four ourselves, which means we win. And I plan to read every selection in Oprah's Book Club and paint the house (at the same time, actually). I love summer. So good to relax for once."

We set our summer expectations so high that when they don't work out, we feel cheated, emotionally devastated, certainly not nearly tanned enough. With such a combination of anticipation and pressure, it's a lot like Christmas.

In fact, maybe we'd be better off treating summer like Christmas and limiting it to just one day a year.

Of course, there would be preparation leading up to Summer (which, obviously, we'd now have to capitalize). You'd have to get all your Summer baking done ahead of time (s'mores, potato salad, charred meat).

Not to mention your Summer shopping -- the usual summer gear, though most men would be running around at the last minute trying to figure out a good Summer present for their wives and girlfriends (hint: sunscreen is not going to cut it).

Spouses would debate whose relatives they would spend Summer with. Or "maybe this year we'll spend Summer at home, just ourselves."
We could sing Summer carols to get into the spirit of the big day.

    Hark the herald, Angels swinging
    The Jays are into extra innings
    Peas on vines and sunshine mild
    Let's go pick some berries (wild)


    Away in a hammock
    (Substitute for a bed)
    Our little old daddy
    Is resting his head

    The lawn it needs mowing
    The front porch needs paint
    But after five or six cold ones,
    Let's say sober, Dad ain't.

And then, after you've tucked the little ones into bed, their eyes all aglow as they ask, "Is Summer really tomorrow?" you'd wake up and rush downstairs. "Summer is here!" you'd shout as you tore open your Summer presents. ("An inflatable Homer Simpson pool chair! Just what I wanted!") Then you'd rush outside and swim and bike and play tag with the kids, do odd jobs, visit the neighbours, light sparklers, build a six-foot bonfire, catch fireflies and walk barefoot through the grass!

Unless, of course, it's raining.