I suppose there is a danger in nostalgia. It can be a distortion of reality because of the will of the dreamer to see what he or she wants to see. But there is always a truth inherent in the rosy picture that we summon up with our imagination. We love to remember the past, especially the days that filled us with promise and innocence, now lost.
During the darkness of this accumulating menace of the pandemic that has gripped the world, allow me to remember a simpler time and one that may not be that factual, but that, in its aura, contains great truths.
I grew up on an ordinary city street in the 50s and early 60s of the last century. There were kids everywhere and cars were scarce. The street was our playground. As we played ‘punch ball’ and ‘kick the can’, the women clustered in small groups speaking loudly about this and that. The elderly men sat on lawn chairs smoking cigars and in jackets and rumpled ties, looking serenely forward, thinking, considering, lost in a faraway reverie. In spite of their working class, blue collar struggles, they looked like the nobility of old, seemingly knowledgeable of things no one else knew or dared to believe.
I remember vividly a hot summer night. I walked to Barney’s Candy Store on the corner of our block. It was after 8, but before closing time at 9. I was all sweaty as I hoisted myself onto the revolving bar-like chair. I must have been about 7 years old. I put my nickel down and asked for a soda. Barney smiled and filled a glass at one of the pumps with ice cold lime soda. I could feel the cold soda in the glass as I lifted it to drink. It was so good! It went down and cooled everything. After I said thanks, I jumped down from the seat and walked back into the night to scamper up the block back to the building where we lived. Everyone was outside cooling off. There was no AC and even fans were few. My Mom asked me where I was. I told her. The other ladies sitting around her cooling off began to comment on my story. She smiled and said in Italian: “My son, the big spender!”
It was just a moment of time when a 7-year-old boy was not afraid to go to a store and to buy something with his allowance. It was a time of safety, of community, of shared values, and deep faith.
I have been thinking a lot of those simpler times, perhaps because they have become important in this time of seclusion and pandemic fear. I was part of a family and a neighborhood and a city. Though I did not know what the word ‘security’ meant, I felt it.
With all the technology that we have today, so bold and wonderful, nothing can bring back those times. Perhaps I have too rosy a picture of them, but these memories are so important and so necessary to cherish.
On this Easter Day, we look back to those simpler times and thank God for the experience of love and community that we all grew up with. But Easter reminds us also of our future in Christ. The Resurrection of Jesus was a trumpet blast, a signal that death has been defeated. Jesus has shown us our future which is glorious. Easter is our future, our story-to-be.
We are in the darkest days of this Pandemic. Though we are thankful for our past, so beautiful and so warm, we must look to our future in Christ. Death is not the end. God has made us for eternity. Some of us may not be here much longer. Death may knock on our doors. But behind the skeletal figure that frightens us is the warm and loving and smiling face of Jesus who died for us.
He brings us home. He brings us to all that was wonderful of simpler times. We will be one with those who love us in a place where social distancing is unheard of.
A Blessed Easter to you all!