Living the Dream — and Not.

For four summers running now, my youngest daughter, her very closest friend, and I go camping every summer on Burton Island, far north on Lake Champlain. The lake is noticeably cleaner than it was four years ago; the girls are definitely older. We recount the year the raccoons ate our food and the year I forget the stove. This year became the year we forgot the tent poles. The girls fashioned a tent from a tarp and rope.

Always, this island enchants me with its summertime mystique, the fluff of seeding trees wafting like fairy confetti in the warm breeze. We’re never eaten too badly by bugs. The girls drink a crazy amount of hot chocolate.

I wake up early in the mornings and read by the lake — this chilly year in my jeans — watching the loons and the ducks with their offspring.

It’s both sweetly idyllic — how could such innocent happiness not be? — and simultaneously not idyllic at all. I write this not to draw attention to my own particular family scenario, but because so much of social media pushes families to believe that everyone is living that glossy, idyllic life. So, in my family, we are, and we aren’t. And I’m darn glad for every bit that we are.

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Age 14

By Brett Ann Stanciu

Brett Ann Stanciu lives with her two daughters in Hardwick, Vermont. Her creative nonfiction book, Unstitched: My Journey to Understand Opioid Addiction and How People and Communities Can Heal, will be published by Steerforth Press in September 2021. Her novel about rural life in Vermont, Hidden View, was published in 2015.

9 comments

  1. As your post eloquently points out Brett, there is a huge difference between the social internet and social media. Social media is the simulacra. Congratulations for perceiving and breaking through the haze. I know you, your family, your writing, and your readers-will benefit. GT

  2. What a lovely post. And I am jealous because I don’t live in Vermont or Ontario. Visiting Vermont is wonderful and I do so every year. And I lived in Ontario as a child. Both are beautiful places.

  3. I understand exactly what you mean I live in Nova Scotia watching the waves, the new leaves on the young trees if nature was all we saw but our lives are complicated but I still love it all Thank You 🙂

  4. This was our 1st summer missing going to Vermont in 4 or 5 years (surgeries, etc; all recovering from nicely thank goodness), and did we miss not going! Not only for the beauty like u described, but here in Central Texas we baked and baked and baked. Your girls could’ve made their hot chocolates out doors each day, lol! But we’re already looking fwd to going next year. It was nice to see ya’ll had such a great time! 😊

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