How Was Your COVID Summer?

By: Tim Wood

Downtown Chatham took on a new look this summer after the board of health mandated that masks be worn from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. TIM WOOD PHOTO


Readers Have Mixed Experience During Unusual Season

For some, it was the worst summer. Ever.

Others had the exact opposite experience. The pandemic brought permission to slow down, spend time with family and enjoy some of the natural resources the Cape has to offer.

With the approach of Labor Day weekend, the official last hurrah of the season, we asked readers to tell us about their experiences during what was, from almost every perspective, the most unusual summer ever. We received dozens of replies, via email and social media, from local residents, second homeowners, visitors and off-Cape folks who provided a glimpse into how they coped with the COVID summer of 2020.

For many, the loss of the usual summer events — band concerts, parades, the Cape Cod Baseball League — left a void. Laura Cox called this “the summer that wasn't.” John Hallgren noted that the lack of outdoor music “made is seem like a never-ending June, before they would normally begin.” Danielle Naida said the summer made her “incredibly sad and worried about the future.”

“It hasn't really felt much like summer this year,” wrote Sheri Hackett Jepson.

Peggy Sullivan Crespo ran down a list of what was wrong with the summer: “Too hot! Nowhere to go! No ball games to go to, no shopping, no friends for lunch or dinner, no breakfast out, no pool visits.”

Caitlin Gallagher simply said, “worst summer ever.”

Others, however, found a bright side in the same losses.

“With all that COVID took away, it gave our family more time together,” wrote Donna Phelan. Gayle Capulli enjoyed playing charades by the campfire, but lamented that all the time spent outdoors made this “the summer of bug bites!”

“We enjoyed lots more time with our kids and grandkids (as they are in bubbles), less dining out but when we did it was always outside,” said Claire McCabe. She enjoyed veggies from her son's new garden, bike rides, kayak trips and walks. “We do miss our friends, but try to keep in touch.”

Robin Stansbury Erickson recalled spending lots of time outdoors, swimming, paddleboarding, playing games on the beach, walking the shore and watching “spectacular sunsets.” “Yes, we missed some traditions but filled that time with loads of family games, reading and hammocking. Can't wait for next summer!”

The inability of some folks to travel also cut into their enjoyment of the summer. Several people said this was the first time in years they haven't come to the Cape during the summer.

Roberta Ryan Williams said she was unable to visit her 79-year-old brother in Harwich this year; she lives in Illinois and didn't have the two weeks available to quarantine. Maryrose Savino said this was the first time since 1969 she wasn't in Harwich Port; however, she did her best to enjoy the Fingerlakes Wine Country where she lives. Carleen Maxon also couldn't get to the Cape for the first time since 1989, and Andria Tileston said this was the first year she could not return to see family here.

David Whynot chose an auspicious summer to open a small business. He didn't know what to expect, but said with the support of the local community and the limited number of visitors who came by, he had a successful first season. “I saw the best of people this summer,” he wrote. “Patience, understanding, generosity, kindness. Yes, it was an unusual summer, but it was still summer on the Cape. No place better in the world.”

Abigail Field, associate director of Pleasant Bay Community Boating, said the summer “was joyful.” While it was hard work preparing to follow health and safety guidelines, “staff and participants alike were elated to be getting out on the water safely.”

“Though we couldn’t serve as many families as we usually do, we were able to get over 300 families and their kids out on the water for sailing lessons, boat rentals, and a full day sailing and science camp which was helpful to working parents,” she wrote in an email. “The outdoor education and recreation was needed more than ever this year.”

CB Flynn of Ridgewood, N.J. felt welcomed by Chatham during a two-week stay. Masks, social distancing and outdoor dining were mere “blips” compared to the “mettle and resiliency” of many local businesses. Of her 40 summers in Chatham, Barbara Cohen said this was one of her top two (her son and daughter-in-law's wedding was the other). She felt safe getting out of Boston to her “happy place” and stopped worrying about COVID “due to the precautions and people following the rules.”

“The town did an excellent job making my family feel comfortable with mandatory masks and social distancing reminders,” she wrote in an email. Restaurants and shops were accommodating and attending church services outdoors was “awesome.”

“Yes, the streets were a bit quieter and I did miss shopping on Main Street after dinner, but in many ways it was nice not to deal with the regular large crowds of this precious town where you can step back in time and have a true American family traditional vacation,” Cohen wrote.

Chris Ciccarelli, who spent the summer commercial fishing, saw a bright side: “I saved a ton of money by not going out to restaurants.” Marsha Finley, on the other hand, loved the opportunity to eat outdoors at restaurants.

“I've always wondered why the Cape had so little outdoor dining,” she wrote. “I know it's probably awful for the restaurant owners, but I hope the practice continues.”

Rob Johnson summed up many people's response to the summer of 2020 when he wrote that he was “grateful to have the opportunity to be here. This too shall pass.”