Lately I’ve been thinking about the summer of 1973. I’ve been thinking about it a little too much. So much so, it is like I can, at least for a few minutes, go back in a time machine. I can feel the heat of the summer sun, hear the clank of the irrigation pipe locking together, touch the tops of the timothy grass, tall and green.
I spent a lot of time that summer working on a friend’s cattle ranch, making $1.00 an hour. I was a young teenager, not able to drive on the street—though I knew how to drive because my father taught me to drive off road when I was 12.
There was a little country store not far from my friend’s ranch. It was a tiny, one room store. A true mom-and-pop operation. A nice, gray haired couple ran it. The store was a sort of tannish peach color. The gravel parking lot could handle about five cars. Or tractors.
We used to drive the Ford 8N tractor down to the store. I was legal to drive that on the road, as long as it had a reflective triangle. It was fun to drive down the road, knowing that the deputy sheriff would just wave as he passed by. And I would buy trashy food—chips and cookies and soda and ice cream bars—and enjoy every ounce of it with no regrets. My little body could handle it then. I say little because I hadn’t gotten my full adult height yet. I was slow growing up.
Anyway, I know I am idealizing that past. That is a little trap I fall into. Making the past out as if it were paradise. In a way it was, but not completely.
I remember coming home one night that summer and opening the newspaper. I read a few column inches about the murder of a girl that I happened to know. She was a few years younger than I was. It was a shock. It was a gruesome crime. I won’t harrow you up with the details of it. It was one of those moments when you start to grow up, when your little microcosm is broken open by a truth too hard to forget, too real to ignore.
So as ideal as I may think the summer of 1973 was, it was not ideal. It was beautifully happy and blissful and wonderfully sad and heart-breaking, just like now, just like today.
The past is the foundation of my life today, but it is not my life. The future is on the horizon, and as beautiful or terrifying as that horizon appears from a distance, it is not my life. Now is my life. This moment. This wonderful, amazing, gracious, inexplicable moment. It is all I have. It is all you have.
This song, a music video by Five for Fighting, is about the past and future. It usually chokes me up. I can’t really explain why. But here it is. See if you can handle it better than I can.
As always, thanks for reading.