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[CRASHING THE GATE]

by Brian Clarey

How I spent my summer vacation

My short, wet summer went off the cliff Saturday morning when my oldest child awoke on Saturday morning with a scorching case of chicken pox.

You don’t see the pox so much these days — smallpox has been relegated to an onerous presence in tales of the distant past. Syphillis, the venereal disease that supposedly brought down Ben Franklin, is a form of the pox that modern medicine has backed into a corner, mostly relegated to promiscuous frat boys and barroom sex addicts.

The chicken pox, too, has a vaccine that my wife and I refused when they offered it at each of our children’s births. We have our reasons.

So: Chicken pox. If I remember my childhood bout with the disease right, it should soon spread to my other children, who will resist scratching those infernal, itchy blisters for a couple days after they sprout and should be able to resume normal activities within a week or so, their immune systems all the stronger for having fended off the virus.

It’s highly contagious to those who haven’t been exposed to it, but if your kids had the vaccine then you’ve got nothing to worry about, right?

Right. The summer that ended with this antiquated disease began, as all summers do, with promise: a vast expanse of empty, warm days that begged to be filled with trips, sleepovers, fireworks, backyard cooking and outdoor concerts.

We did our part to engage with the season, but as with everyone else in the Piedmont Triad, the weather was our onerous dictator.

It was a summer of everyday rains:

soft storms sifting down from thin cloud cover, rumbling breakers that rattled the windows, fog so thick it felt like mist. The rains gave us overflowing creeks and lush lawns in constant need of haircuts, and precipitated a boom in the insect population that fed the food chain from the bottom up. In my yard, it was a summer ticks and fleas, of walking through spiderwebs and monitoring a thriving bird population so emboldened by the surplus of food that they took to divebombing my cats on the patio.

For me, it was a summer of family. My sister moved here from Riverside, Calif. in the spring, and my parents, who were living in an apartment just outside New York City, followed after my mother finished up her 30-year career as a schoolteacher and began her retirement.

It’s been a long time — 20 years or so — since I lived around so many people in my family, but I believe the dynamic has worked itself out to all of our satisfaction.

My sister spent the summer decorating her house and looking for work. My parents, who were frequent visitors to Greensboro over the last 10 years, took steps to establish their North Carolina residency — bank accounts, Social Security and Medicare, drivers licenses and such — and marveled that despite the lack of what they think of as traffic, that it still takes about 20 minutes to get anywhere in the city.

There were trips this summer: My wife went to New York to help my parents pack for the move — which, I’ve been told, doesn’t count as a vacation — and she took our sons to their very first rock show at the House of Blues in Cleveland, Ohio, which definitely qualifies.

I spent a few days in Miami for business, though I managed to make a pretty good survey of the city in my idle hours. In Miami, I met the Rolling Stone National Affairs Editor Matt Taibbi, a personal hero of mine, and smoked a $20 cigar. Not at the same time, mind you, but it was still a great trip.

But for me the best moments of the summer came right here in town, poolside, where in my middle age I’ve learned to sit in the sun with a cold drink and allow the season to pass by. The kids swam and ate ice cream and lost their goggles. My wife and I, with a group of our friends — mostly parents who appreciate the summer reprieve from the grind of school, homework and packed lunches — played thousands of hands of cards at the tables on the pool deck, perhaps subconsciously tracking inevitable the ebb and flow of good fortune.

It’s been a good summer — nay, a great one, where we appropriately relished in the bounty of the season, appreciating that annual gift of life’s greatest and most valuable commodity: time.

And now, with the sun slowly dropping lower on the horizon, it’s pretty much over. School’s in full swing, professional football starts this week. And there’s a pox on my house, literally. But it’s nothing we can’t handle in the fullness of time.

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