Our Summer of ’20

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.

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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.

About Joel D. Hirst

Joel D. Hirst is a novelist and a playwright. His most recently released work is "Dreams of the Defeated: A Play in Two Acts" about a political prisoner in a dystopian regime. His novels include "I, Charles, From the Camps" about the life of a young man in the African camps and "Lords of Misrule" about the making and unmaking of a jihadist in the Sahara. "The Lieutenant of San Porfirio" and its sequel "The Burning of San Porfirio" are about the rise and fall of socialist Venezuela (with magic).
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5 Responses to Our Summer of ’20

  1. Bill Loughlin says:

    It has been a very difficult year to be sure. I try to console myself with my grandchildren and seek solace in the Mass, in the word of God, in the stories of the martyrs. How important to remember that we are only here for a short while. Sometimes I feel like Elijah, sitting on a stone, waiting for a butterfly, waiting all alone.


  2. Pingback: The Boy of Summer and Our Changing World by Joel Hirst

  3. Annie Rose says:

    Thank you for sharing your love of life’s wonders with your son. You have brought back so many happy memories of my husband and myself reading stories and having adventures with our two daughters as they grew up. May I also suggest these books to read together: Where the Red Fern Grows (a young boy learns about life, love, and loss from two beloved dogs and his family), The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (children coping with wartime England while forced to stay away from London and their family); The Chronicles of Narnia (many underlying Christian themes in a wonderful tale of fantasy). I hope all parents will put down their tablets and phones during this strange time and realize that there is nothing more precious than building that special relationship with their children through reading, everyday shared tasks, and exploring the natural world around them.


    • Thanks Annie!! We did read Narnia, a few years ago. But he was little, maybe we do it again… Good call on Red Fern. And I think you hit the nail on the head – wonder. Ours, our western philosophy is a philosophy of wonder. When we lose our wonder, we lose our love of God and we lose our love of life. Thats when the madness starts.


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