What Have You Missed?

During the COVID-19 pandemic what have you missed? Have you taken the opportunity to reflect on what is most important to you? Or have you curled up and told the world to check back with you after things get straightened up?

Some things I have missed the most are shopping, baseball, and gathering with family and friends. As I reflected on this, it was a surprise to find I miss shopping. I’m not a big shopper and ordering online is not the same. When you go to a store you have an opportunity to use your senses in the shopping experience, which helps you decide on what to buy. Sometimes you meet a friend you haven’t seen in a long time and viola lunch plans are made.

My sons played baseball and I have spent countless hours watching games and practices. I can keep score with the best. I am not bored with the slower play of the game as there is food most of the time. At the games you become part of a group that cheers for great plays (or for the 6-year-old that runs the right direction) and shakes their heads when plays go wrong. There are people to talk with and sometimes you don’t talk about baseball.

This year we celebrated Mother’s Day with signs and talking with Mom through a window at the retirement center where she lives. While we got comfortable with this form of celebration, it was cut short as there were others waiting to celebrate with their mothers.

Humans are not made to be hermits (with a few exceptions). We need and want to be with other people. For people that have experienced deaths, births, and marriages during this time things have been different. When a person is in their last hours of life and you cannot hold their hand or mourn together everything feels wrong. A newborn child is an opportunity for families to celebrate. But during this separation time, the celebration is with waves through the Internet. It feels like a missed opportunity. A marriage ceremony is a celebration. Today, we watch on our phones as the couple exchange their vows unable to hug them. It isn’t what we do. The separation has been eased with the Internet, but it doesn’t replace being there for these times.

When we can gather again, let’s not take these celebration opportunities for granted. Don’t find a reason to skip going to the hospital to say goodbye or miss the funeral. Don’t wait until later to see the new baby and parents. Go to the wedding and enjoy one more dance.


Summer Heat

Where I live July is one of the hottest months of the year. The heat and humidity can be oppressive, forcing natives to seek relief inside air-conditioned homes, buildings, and cars. When I lived in Wisconsin, I found July was hot but not like Texas hot. In Wisconsin you can be out during the day and the evenings are pleasant especially with a soft serve cone. People complain about the heat, and by Wisconsin standards it is hot, but I grew up in Texas where 100-degree days with evening temperatures in the 80s during July and August are expected.

The Wisconsin summer is enough reason to visit this part of the country. The popular ski shows are found all through the state and Door County fish boils are a treat for tourists and residents alike. Summer is a time for the farmers’ markets to open early and close around noon or when the produce and baked goods are gone. The fishing is good most of the day and swimming is a favorite activity when the fish aren’t biting. Jet skis and boats are found on all the lakes and rivers.

The days are long, over fourteen hours of sunlight in much of the state. That means there is still daylight after work providing time for family activities. With mild evening temperature people stay outdoors and soak up the warmth of summer knowing that autumn will bring the first freeze of the year.

Writing the Jameson stories set in Wisconsin helps me remember how much I loved living there – especially during the summers.

Celebration Memories

How do you make celebrations fun, meaningful, and memorable?

My parents divorced when I was ten and my mother became a single parent with no support from my father. Birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving, and almost any other celebration was an opportunity for my mom to shine. We didn’t have any money, but she wanted to make every day we had together special. She baked, cooked, sewed, and went without lunches so we, my siblings and I, could have good memories.

Like today it takes creativity and resourcefulness to take almost nothing and make it seem like the best celebration ever. Every year we would go to see the Forth Worth Independence Day fireworks display. It was free. We participated in a lot of free events.

July Fourth in Fort Worth, Texas is almost always hot and dry. I don’t remember a rained-out celebration. We would drive downtown, carrying a bag with some drinks and cookies, a couple of blankets, and walk many blocks with the pavement so hot you felt it through your shoes. There was a park along the Trinity River where we could watch the show. We would spread out the blankets, grab cookies, play with friends we brought with us and other children in the crowd until it got dark. And then a large booming firework would explode, and we would run to our families and lie back on blankets to watch the magic.

There would be oohs and aahs throughout the park with each volley of fireworks. I always felt a giddy happiness watching the dark sky light up with the colors and patterns. This would go on for about thirty minutes and then it was time to go home. The walk back to the car seemed further and more difficult because we were so tired.

During the show, the world didn’t feel so big – there was magic in the air and we could see it. We weren’t the poor kids – since everyone around us always asked for a homemade cookie we could share with others. But what stuck with me was that my mom would smile the entire evening – and that felt like the magic in the sky had crept into my mom giving her some relief from every day pressures.

Today, I still feel lighthearted and in awe of the magic found in fireworks. Celebrations don’t have to be expensive and filled with stress. They are what we make them. Remember to make them fun, meaningful, and memorable by enjoying the time together.