Pools, lakes and sandy beaches: summer at home in the States

Illustration – Isabelle Griffin

It’s been a little over two weeks since I landed in Boston, for the first time since December, and it’s good to be home. We had pretty awful weather recently, and when you work at a pool that is less than ideal. Thankfully, things are now sunny and warm; perfect for sundresses and breakfasts outdoors.

Normally I work over the holidays as a camp counselor at a girls’ camp in New Hampshire, but due to an ongoing episode of post-viral fatigue (believe me when I say I’ve never been this tired in my life) that is no longer an option this summer.

Even though I’ve never spent more than a month at camp, this would have been my seventh summer, and it’ll feel strange to break the the cycle. The only other guaranteed summer activity is the annual visit to my grandmother’s house on Lake Michigan, so I was a little down thinking about how else to spend my time.


But all is now well. I’m working as a lifeguard at an outdoor pool, which is great when it’s sunny and I can get my tan on and take a dip during breaks. Sitting in that guard chair, however, does quite the number on your back.

An even more painful part of my day comes with the parents who think that my job isn’t actually to save their kids’ lives, but rather to play nanny and break up sibling spats.

I’m being paid to sit in a tall chair and blow my whistle at kids who run, jump where they aren’t supposed to, throw balls at little old ladies doing laps, and have breath-holding competitions which always make me think they’re drowning. I’m not here to answer questions of “who cut in line”.

I’m excited to be at home, spending time with friends and family outside of relaxed working hours, making friends with co-workers during them, and just enjoying the sun and the water. But right now, while my friends are either working, still in school, already on family vacations, or sticking around in Ireland, I’m honestly quite bored.

My main adventure so far has been trying to get my phone switched over to an American provider (10/10 would not recommend to a friend), and I’m now seriously considering going phoneless for the entire summer.


Once school’s out for my brothers and my parents get time off work, it’s off to Lake Michigan for nearly two weeks of peace, love, and beach. Michigan is a place to relax, catch a movie at the drive-in, go to the annual Cherry Festival in Traverse City, or watch the minor league baseball team, the Beach Bums, lose again.

It’s always something to look forward to: we’ve been going since before I was just a bump on my mother’s belly, and I’ll be damned if it isn’t the same way for my kids. My grandmother’s house is right on the lake: walk out the side door, sprint across flaming hot sand – while avoiding getting stabbed in the foot by the beach grass – and into the water you go.

Cherries galore

Michigan is also the self-appointed “Cherry Capital,” and every year Traverse City holds the Cherry Festival. This includes a fair with your standard Ferris wheel, spinning teacups (excuse me, I feel sick), and mini child-friendly roller coasters; basically just picture every fair you’ve ever seen in an American movie.

There is also a stage for live music, and a craft fair where some very talented artists sell their creations. I got a beautiful turquoise ring there last year.

The best and most unusual part of the fair is the vast variety of cherry products on sale: cherry drinks, smoothies, juices, coffees, teas; cherry cheese; cherry sausages; cherry burgers; cherry jams, jellies, preserves, and sauces; cherry popcorn; cherry fudge; chocolate-covered cherries; hard candy cherries; and the famous cup-o-cherries, which is simply a big cup of fresh Michigan cherries.

My family and I go into the city and spend all day wandering around the festival, darting in and out of shops as we go. For dinner we always eat at the North Star Brewery, where there is great outdoor seating, live music, and killer burgers.

Back in about 2009, when Don’t Stop Believin’ got really big again, we were sitting outside the brewery enjoying our burgers and cherry soda when my brother decided to go and request it from the DJ.

No-one requests songs. The guy just plays whatever he is feeling. But my 10-year-old brother asks for Don’t Stop Believin’, and not only did the guy play it, but my brother got everyone sitting outdoors to sing and clap along. Looking back I think it was adorable, but 12-year-old Emma was mortified.

Home again

After Michigan, we’ll head home and it’s back to blowing my whistle at children and trying to please snotty parents. My Mom and I plan to explore museums and go on lots of mini road trips, and it’s definitely a perk of not going to camp that I get to spend more time with my family this summer. Considering that I’m in Dublin most of the year, a little extra time at home where food and laundry are free and bountiful doesn’t go amiss.

Looking ahead, I’ll continue to miss Dublin and the friends I’ve made over the past year, but being home is good for the soul and wallet, and the smile on my face right now is the real deal.

Come August, some lovely friends from the Emerald Isle will be in Boston for a week, and that will be something to keep me looking ahead. I’m a bit nervous about getting into a groove and making sure to see old friends, because work schedules tend to overlap and it’s quite difficult to make plans. But ultimately it’s summer and it’s hot and the beach is calling, so it’ll all work out in the end.

Illustration by Isabelle Griffin