“What will we do this weekend?” – Something we don’t say anymore. Even the children already know the answer.
There are very few options available. No weekend brunches in a local restaurant. No activities like ice-skating or baseball to rush out for. No friends to meet. No car to drive anywhere. No roads out of Montreal open for day-trippers. No random events to attend, which is strange – Montreal will party for pretty much any reason. There is usually something being celebrated somewhere, every single day of the year. Except this year.
So quite obviously, this weekend we shall do exactly the same as we did last weekend. And the weekend before…
Saturday (depending on fickle weather) is the day where we will have a prompt lunch. Dinner will be pre-ordered using whatever delivery service didn’t let us down last time. I pack a snack, and we dress either in warm coats against the freezing wind, or layers that can be removed under a weak but warm sun. The stroller is hauled out of the building and the 3-year-old is deposited into it. We walk a block west until we reach the canal, then we join other local residents and travel south on the cycle/pedestrian path.
It’s a pleasant walk this time of year. The paths are now clear of snow, ice and freezing pools of water. The temperature is (mostly) warm enough that you only need a light jacket against the breeze. The sweltering heat and humidity has not yet descended on Montreal. In a few more weeks this route will be too unsheltered to casually walk with the sun beating down. It will also most likely be far too crowded as the summer weather brings the Montreal sun-worshippers out in force.
Right now we pass plenty of people who are also enjoying the chance to get some exercise. There is no set distance we must remain within — like Ireland’s 2km (then 5km) limit for exercising — but we are supposed to remain within our general neighbourhoods. We can count ourselves extremely lucky that we have one of the biggest parks in Montreal about a 20 minute walk from our apartment.
The car parks are still open at Angrignon park. I hope that when (not if) the park is heaving with visitors, they will close like others have. This is our only opportunity to really stretch our legs all week, and let the children run free without dodging rubbish bins and cars coming out of back alleys. I can’t imagine lasting through another intense summer here without the ability to come to at least one open outdoor space.
The park is stunning in all seasons. We’ve come here for leafy green summers, gorgeous fall colours, and crunchy white winters where birds come to peck peanuts from the palm of your hand. In this springtime, new growth is unfurling and pushing up from the ground. The lake meanders through the middle of the park, reflecting the current mood of the sky. The reeds are sprouting feathery new heads that sway in the wind. If you’re going to be in lockdown, then this is a prime location for spending outdoor time.
After a snack at a picnic bench, and some free play that inevitably gets too rowdy, I will bribe the 3-year-old back into his stroller for a handful of raisins. We start the trek home that seems so much longer than it did on the way down. Probably because the 7-year-old will incessantly whine all the way back about being tired and not having all that he desires in life.
Weary from the unaccustomed exercise (our average daily step count has plummeted since the start of lockdown), one adult will head for a nap. I will supervise whatever movie the kids have chosen. By the time it’s done the buzzer will herald the arrival of dinner. The kids will shriek at the harsh sound, as they always do. Then I will negotiate the handoff from the driver who will either casually stroll up to pass over a bag, or suspiciously place it just inside the front door of the building, and back away in fear if I approach too quickly.
After a hearty feed it will be pyjamas and teeth, stories, and bedtime for the kids. Some time later it will be tea and tv for two exhausted parents.
The following day (or previous depending on weather) is designated for adult exercise. First lunch must be sorted out. Dough is mixed and left rising in preparation for dinner. If there isn’t torrential rain, or I haven’t done my back in, then I will determinedly pull on my exercise clothes and connect my music player. Out I go, reluctantly, to trace the same route as before… only this time at jogging or speed-walking speed.
I’ll huff and puff my way as far as the park, then pause to sit on a rock overlooking the water and revel in the short moment of tranquility. I switch to my most energetic tracks to encourage me all the way back home where the dough must be stretched and rolled while the potato chips crisp in the oven. Then everyone’s favourite toppings are slathered in melted cheese for the weekly pizza night that has been a tradition forever now.
All too soon this weekend is over.
This would have been our first spring (and summer) in our new home and neighbourhood, so it’s hard to know how much of our weekend routine would have been the same as it is now. We don’t have a past here to compare this to. There’s something to be said for the slow, predictable nature of lockdown weekends. However I feel we would have settled into a slower rhythm anyway, when ice-skating classes finished and the weather finally started to warm after the long long winter. I can both appreciate the enforced simplicity we live right now, but also chafe at the lack of variety. We’ve lost the right to choose our balance.
I miss the lost potential of this coming summer. This was the one where we were going to be more settled. The first summer that we weren’t going to be packing, moving house, and unpacking again. The one where we would make the effort to rent a car at least once a month, and visit our bucket list of spots you can easily travel to from Montreal. The one where we might finally make it to a local outdoor swimming pool.
Wishing and missing won’t change anything about the summer we’re going to have. We’ll just have to make the most of what it is. Be thankful for a park within walking distance, and for our good health so far. Perhaps we’ll get to see some friends outdoors during the summer, and that will be a highlight after the long lonely spring. One thing is for certain. The next non-pandemic summer we have is going to be the best. I hope we can take some of what we’ve learnt this year, and apply it then.