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Making It Work: A Day in the Life of Families Living Through a Summer Like No Other

By JoAnne Wasserman | July 7, 2020

When school ends across the United States this time of the year, there is a nearly audible sigh of relief as families usually ease into a more relaxed, less structured time filled with summer programs, camp, internships and jobs.

But in this summer like no other, for families like the Coronas in San Antonio, the Joneses in Washington, D.C., and Melody Glendell and her two daughters, Alexandra and Aleena Grant in Cleveland, the days and weeks are filled with monotony and uncertainty, punctuated by attempts to create fun, lightness and a sense of routine and to simply pass the time.

Click here to jump to our interactive graphic following a day with all three families.

Those three families graciously opened their homes to us. What we discovered was that buried within the monotony is something vital: a strong core of care for one another that ties the days — somehow both endless and too short — together. Because of COVID-19, schools, jobs and most activities are not as reliable as they once were, leaving families to lean heavily on each other for a daily itinerary.

Simple tasks such as entertaining a grandchild, walking the dog, doing puzzles, baking, gardening and reading are bittersweet and seem to have taken on more meaning. There is a resolve to make the best of things — to make it through — which is no easy task. Here are some of the members of those families, in their own words:

‘Trying not to let every day look exactly the same’ in Washington, D.C.

DaSean Jones is a D.C. father who got through the first part of the pandemic by carefully and successfully choreographing his children’s daily activities.

“[I’m] trying not to let every day look exactly the same and go exactly the same way. … It’s a challenge.”

His 16-year-old daughter is also weary of the challenge, mourning what she had during summers past — simple things like friends, swimming, camp outings.

“[I miss] being able to meet new people, creating new [friendships],” said Kayla Jones, 16, who last summer had an internship with a nonprofit that hosted community events but is now doing online projects.

Spend a day with the Joneses here.

Hands-on learning in Ohio

In a suburb outside Cleveland, Alexandria and Aleena Grant — known as Ally and Apple — spend each day at the home of their grandmother Flora Grant so their mother can work. Ally points to a house across the street and says she has friends that live there. Normally, they’d all play basketball together or jump on a trampoline.

Not this year.

“Since we’re with my grandma, we can’t get her sick,” Ally says.

On a day that is growing hotter by the minute, the girls help Grant with gardening and watering plants, which soon devolves into a water fight, the two sisters squealing at the cold spray.

“Don’t get all wet,” Grant scolds, though she doesn’t persist or intervene. A hose in her backyard might be the closest thing the girls have to swimming this summer.

Spend a day with the Grant girls here.

Rebuilding in San Antonio

For some families, like the Coronas, the next school year will be spent rebuilding what fell apart this year. They’re nervous about the reopenings that have caused virus cases to skyrocket in Texas, but at the same time anxious to go back to work and school.

School took a backseat to work for 16-year-old Mia. Still, she made it through the school year. Her 14-year-old sister Aaliyha could not concentrate because of anxiety and frustration and quit logging on to her remote lessons.

“I made lots of mistakes. I decided not to do my work or do it last minute,” Aaliyha said. “I decided to do my own thing, which I really regret.” She’s determined to get things back on track next academic year.

Spend a day with the Corona family here.

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