I remember being a child in Baltimore, Towson actually, about age 9 or 10, dancing in the rain on a hot summer evening. I remember hearing the ice cream man’s bell as his truck came up our street on sultry afternoons–my brother and I would run inside to get the few cents a Good Humor bar cost in the early fifties. I remember playing imaginary games with friends under a big shade tree on the side of our house. I remember on cloudy days spreading out my hundreds of paper dolls across my large closet floor, sorting them into families, creating stories for them to live. I remember drawing for hours alone in my room where a summer breeze blew through my shear curtains cooling me. I remember swimming in the community pool. I remember our family going to a big park and playing baseball–aunts, uncles, included. I recall several sweltering nights when my parents surprised us by getting us out of bed to come downstairs for ice cream.
Summer was hot. No air conditioning. But we almost didn’t notice. It was such fun to play in summer, to do any number of things we couldn’t fit in on winter school days.
Summer this year after Covid-19 has a different feel. It’s fragile. People say its about getting back to normal. Normal? What’s going to make normal come? Will it be better for kids to go off to camp or school and parents to get back to work? Probably.
But I may miss the hushed days of “lockdown,” the freedom to let each day unravel in quiet work and simple pleasures. There was a sort of peculiar magic in the freedom to think, read, write, pray, paint, bake bread, and walk on an empty beach that was as enchanting as a childhood summer, though I didn’t run in the rain nor play with friends nor enjoy Good Humor bars. But the unsolicited freedom of the past two years granted me time of my own making. Both my husband and I relished it. No meetings, no unnecessary events or engagements. Grocery store trips only each fortnight, no other errands except rarely needed gas. No eating out. No problem as I’m a good cook–homemade croissants or pancakes for breakfast with eggs and sausage (I’m an advocate of hearty breakfasts), for lunch my sourdough bread sandwiches, and dinners like paintings. Why go out? I set a beautiful table with blue and white Spode china or Villeroy and Boch’s Naif, cloth napkins with contrasting prints to the vibrant table mats. A lovely table is one of life’s little beauty rituals–can we ever have too much beauty? I think not!
For that matter can we ever have too much quiet? I think not. I’ve read over 50 books in the past 24 months. Painted several dozen paintings, both oil and watercolor, in the same amount of time. And made bread every two or three days. How would I ever have managed that without enforced isolation?
Now I’m not suggesting this plague continue! Just that we take what we learned from unregulated time and keep it in upcoming days. Find the solitude in which to do things that really matter, to read and contemplate ideas, to develop skills we say we don’t have time for when our days are too busy. We are no longer children chasing ice cream trucks but our childlikeness is still within us, as is our need for quiet reflection. Cherish them both this summer and beyond.