Summer is winding down. The weather is beginning to cool off, at least in some places, and “Back To School” season is upon us. Book-bags and binders and lunch-bags. And face-masks – for though summer is over, the strangeness of this year does abide.
It’s always hard to live in the present. Concerns of daily life piled around us like the refuse beside a fast-moving highway, over which it is sometimes difficult to see. COVID slowed us down a little bit, but maybe stacked the detritus higher. Yet as circumstances and situations move into the rear view mirror, our minds scrub them and clean them and remove the unwanted rubble. This purification process is called nostalgia; and we can determine just how powerful were the moments through which we lived by how quickly our consciousness completes this process, setting the finished product on display forever in our imaginations.
For me, for the summer of ’20, this process is already well advanced. Because this was the summer of my little boy. He’s just of the right age, old enough to be clever and fun and creative but not too old that I am yet annoying – that he would rather ‘hang’ with his friends. Ours was a summer without distractions – there was no Disney, no trips to Dubai or Sharm to swim with the dolphins. No camps of any kind; few friends – for all are nervous this year and our already-scripted playtimes are ever-so-much-more-so in times of COVID.
So we filled our summer with each other. Hiking the storied Caucasian mountains; throwing rocks in lakes; looking for frogs in ponds; making dams in cold mountain streams; traipsing through ancient castles and meandering upon the ancient silk road and up into monasteries full of the reminders of days gone by which also experienced monumental events, and still the stones reverberate with the tales. Our summer of soccer, and Lego castles – of water fights and home-made pizza. Lord of the Rings (the books, and then the movie – as a reward, the old cartoons telling the story as it should be told). Star Wars, the trilogy – the real trilogy, not whatever Disney is up to these days. Reading books at night, and devotions before bed as we explore the greatness of God in a world that has decided He is too much of an inconvenience to be considered. Until a pandemic wipes away our hubris – and people remember that there are no utopias absent the preserving power of God upon the soul.
2020 will fade into the past, the pandemic will be a part of our history books and the stories we tell each other “Remember that troubled summer of 2020?” Life will go on, the ancient places and our enduring faith remind us of that – the world will re-order itself and whether we are Jefferson declaring with optimism “We hold these truths to be self-evident” or St. Augustine lamenting in “City of God” the end of empire, that will not change the fact that each of us must live our lives, nor does it affect the transcendence we find in the goodness of family and in the care-free peals of laughter of my little boy.