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Life’s a Beach By Shelley Murphy

By Shelley Murphy

The Labor Day holiday marks the unofficial end of summer. The first weekend of September I’m often a bit melancholy as I say goodbye to the season—but not this year.

Summer was a bummer. Many of my family’s favorite pastimes were shelved, and our perennial vacation was scrapped. We swapped our tropical trip for another senseless staycation.

I’m sure it’s well-intended, but I’m weary of the countless commentaries and posts proclaiming creative and innovative ways to celebrate summer, and milestones, during a pandemic.

I read one website suggesting “stellar summer activities that are just as wonderful as your traditional summer vacation.”

The list included: Have a watermelon seed spitting contest; take a nap in a hammock; have an indoor scavenger hunt; and, wait for it, the best summer fun idea—run a virtual 5K.

Labor Day weekend celebrates the culmination of carefree beach bashes and backyard barbecues—but not in 2020. Year after year, the holiday also ushers in the onset of pumpkin spice lattes and the informal launch of the holiday season.

I’m a calendar keeper and datebook diarist, so not long after Labor Day, I begin planning my holiday merriment. This year, however, much of the holiday season sits in limbo, including many beloved annual traditions.

The Los Angeles County Department of Health banned spooky Halloween carnivals and indoor haunted houses. They also recommend barring kids from trick-or-treating next month.

Halloween falls on a Saturday, the night of a full moon, and the weekend Daylight Saving Time ends. Partygoers get an extra hour to revel, but many eerie events—including Knotts’ Scary Farm, Disneyland’s Oogie Boogie Bash, and the Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor—are canceled.

This year, more than ever, I’m craving the comfort of our family’s Thanksgiving traditions.

I cherish our time-honored rituals at Thanksgiving: hosting family gatherings, cooking harvest feasts, and predicting the winners in football rivalries.

I’m preparing for my favorite holiday, yet my gut is questioning the likelihood of my plans coming to fruition.

My family’s Thanksgiving observance doesn’t include watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, but for more than 90 years, countless viewers consider it a Turkey Day staple.

This year, Macy’s announced its annual event is a “reimagined” celebration. They’ll follow the format developed for New York City’s Fourth of July fireworks show, and some segments will be virtual.

Every year, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade kicks off the Christmas season with Santa’s ceremonial arrival.

Closer to home, at Dana Point Harbor, the holiday season commences with the annual lighting ceremony that illuminates the Harbor in thousands of festive lights. However, this November, the ritual is canceled.

Don’t despair, Dana Point Harbor Partners do plan to hold their 46th Boat Parade of Lights during the first two weekends of December. Although, in a written statement, they warn the parade is subject to change due to pending public health guidelines.

Hallelujah, the Harbor’s popular boat rides with Santa are scheduled to continue, albeit with one slight snag this season.

In the spirit of social distancing, instead of sitting on Santa’s lap, young children will wave to St. Nick while sitting 6 feet away from him.

Maybe it’s me, but a socially distant and masked Santa doesn’t deliver the magic of the season I so desperately desire this December.

Likewise, I’m sure holiday websites will soon pop up offering holly jolly solutions to salvage the most wonderful time of the year.

I can imagine their creative lists: hide wrapped gifts throughout the house instead of beneath the trimmed tree; before passing presents, put festive bows on bottles of hand sanitizer; and invite friends and family to a merry and virtual holiday party.

I’m tired of reimagining holidays and trading time-honored traditions for work-around celebrations.

This holiday season is shaping up to be special, but for all the wrong reasons.

While the holidays may look a little different this year, I’m looking forward to celebrating—especially on New Year’s Eve, as I can’t wait to say goodbye to 2020.

For more than 20 years, Shelley Murphy and her husband have lived in San Clemente, where she raised her two sons. She’s a freelance writer and has been a contributor to the San Clemente Times since 2006.

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