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I don’t know how many times I had to write the dreaded “What I did this summer” essay.

Most of us, I think, got stuck with that assignment at least a few times in high school or middle school. It was an easy first assignment for an English teacher to toss out, a good way to get everyone back into the habit of writing, and, also, see how much of what should have been learned last year had been lost during the break.

Getting the essay done would have been underhand slow pitch to the students, something almost everybody could hit. Stuck at a desk, staring out the window at the blue skies and sunshine, thoughts of those past months of freedom would have felt like fresh bruises, easy to call up.

My summer has been a “What I did” essay in progress, played out in this paper Tuesday through Sunday, but as much as I’ve seen and done over the last couple of months, I’ve missed a few things.

For instance, I missed keeping up with my garden in any meaningful way.

Every year, I make all of these great plans about how I’m going to grow a huge garden that will give me fresh produce from late June until maybe late September.

I dream about making pasta sauce with homegrown tomatoes and peppers that is somehow noticeably better than the stuff that cost $1.35 a jar.

I want to enjoy the smug feeling of eating fresh melons from my garden with breakfast, even though the only melon I’ve successfully grown was a weird, alien-skull-shaped watermelon that nobody wanted to eat.

Every winter I spend weeks reading (or glancing) through gardening manuals and poring through seed catalogs, agonizing over which vegetables to grow like I’m choosing major household appliances or players for a fantasy football league.

This year was no different. I bought seeds for strange heirloom tomatoes and exotic sounding peppers allegedly hot enough to burn away your will to live.

I thought I could make chili, share it with friends.

To get a leg up on my gardening, I also bought a little plastic greenhouse, not that it helped.

An hour or so after I put plants outside in the greenhouse, a gust of wind picked the thing up and tossed it down the driveway. Everything was lost. I had to start over, plant late and in a bit of a rush.

My usual, moderately messy garden ended up a tangled collection of weeds crowded around hastily planted vegetables, all fighting for space.

In mid-July, two cucumber vines initiated a coupe, strangled my zucchini plants, and went after a couple of tomato plants. I had them to spare. The 10 tomato plants I had somehow multiplied into 25.

I don’t know what happened with the eggplant, the beets, or the acorn squash I planted.

I’m pretty sure I have melons but haven’t been able to keep up with the weeding. They’re just under there somewhere. Meanwhile, most of my free time this summer has been fighting back the yard and slowly losing ground to a bamboo patch that is trying to recreate the set from “Apocalypse Now.”

I threaten to turn my entire backyard into a trailer park every time I fire up the mower.

Actually, that’s pretty normal. Never mind.

Housekeeping has fallen by the wayside, too. I’m behind on mopping floors, cleaning windows and general straightening. My shower hasn’t been scrubbed since May and I don’t know how much bleach will be enough to make that right.

At this point, it might be easier to just let the dogs have the house and go live in my car.

Minus basic maintenance and household chores, I’ve missed Charleston coming back to life after the lockdown and social distancing of the pandemic.

I missed the return of FestivALL and “Mountain Stage” to the city in June. I missed Charleston Light Opera Guild’s productions of “Putting it Together” at the Clay Center and “Ring of Fire” at Haddad Riverfront Park.

I haven’t made it out to the Alban Arts Center or to the Elk City Playhouse for a Contemporary Youth Arts Company show.

I’ve missed every Live on the Levee, haven’t been to a single West Virginia Power baseball game or gone to the Clay Center for a Sound Checks show.

I haven’t been to Ellen’s Ice Cream in months and don’t remember the last time I picked up a coffee at Taylor Books.

Other people can blame their lack of coffee consumption on the heat. Not me. I will drink piping hot black coffee and watch the street boil.

Also, I haven’t been able to take advantage of the weekend boulevard closures to run next to the river.

Last summer, jogging down the middle of Kanawha Boulevard with not a car or another human being in sight was one of my favorite things to do on Sundays. I felt like Will Smith in “I am Legend.”

But running has been on the back burner this summer. The travel and the near constant game of catch up at home has made it difficult to maintain a running schedule and keep up with my CrossFit classes.

I could do one or the other. CrossFit made better sense, but because I didn’t train for it, I’ll be skipping the Charleston Distance Run.

Maybe next year.

These were all reasonable trades to get to see as much as I have, but there were things I didn’t lose out that I worried that I might.

I didn’t lose much time with my family.

In July, I spent four days at a lake in Tennessee with my father, stepmother, my two sisters and their husbands and children. We kayaked, swam, talked, laughed, and ate together.

While in Tennessee, I let my aunt buy me a 12-pack of beer at a Dollar General.

I barely touched it while we were at the rental house. The beer came home with me, but I laugh about how funny it seemed to have my Aunt Joyce pay for my beer.

My inner 15-year-old was thrilled.

Most of the beer is still in my fridge.

I guess I’m sentimental.

Like a lot of other families, we hadn’t seen each other since well before the start of the pandemic. I hadn’t seen my sisters since the fall of 2019.

It was important to me to make the time.

On some of these trips, I got to bring my son, Emmett. After a year spent studying virtually, getting him out of the house seemed like a good idea and I put him to work. He took pictures and watched the GPS to keep me from getting lost more than I needed to.

I did miss a wedding, an important one, but I didn’t write down the date, misplaced the RSVP and when I finally remembered, it was too late.

From this summer, it’s my one real regret. The rest isn’t terrible.

True, I can’t go back and see the concerts and shows I missed, but I can look forward to the things to come with a greater appreciation than I maybe had before.

Bill Lynch covers entertainment. He can be reached at 304-348-5195 or Follow @lostHwys on Twitter and @billiscap on Instagram.

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